Increased Heart Attack Risk In Winter

How To Keep Your Heart Healthy During The Winter?

Winter has proven to be a very dangerous time of year for heart attack risk, not only because of severe cold and icy conditions but because of the effect, it has on our physical health.

If not prepared, people can be subjected to extreme conditions and deadly temperature drops which can be very hard on the body, and particularly rough on the heart. In fact, during winter, studies have shown that there is an increased heart attack risk. What makes this so, and how can it be prevented?

Increased Heart Attack Risk In Winter

Most Common Causes Of Heart Attack

During colder times of the year, the human body naturally prepares itself for harsh conditions. This is an inherent survival tactic that helps people adjust to drops in temperature. What does the body do to fight the elements?

Blood Pressure & Cholesterol

Cold weather increases blood pressure and cholesterol. These are key factors in causing heart attacks and strokes. The levels rise in response to tightened blood vessels, causing an increase in blood flow. Blood flow speeds up to keep the body warm; cholesterol levels rise as well. Rises in blood pressure and cholesterol are significant factors in causing heart attacks, as well as strokes.

Immune System

Blood levels within the immune system rise as temperatures decrease. This happens to prepare for winter illnesses such as colds or flu. As a potential result, extra plaque may build up along the artery walls of the heart. Plaque is known to compromise blood flow, which puts extra work on the heart. Combined with higher blood pressure, a hard-working heart is not as capable of protecting itself from an attack in colder temperatures.

Winter Diet

Thinner bodies don’t hold up as well during a cold winter. To combat the lowered temperature, people tend to eat foods that are high in fat – a foundation for a poor diet. Foods higher in fat are higher in cholesterol, which builds up within the arteries and makes the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. Studies show that people also seem to consume more alcohol during the winter, possibly believing that liquor warms the body. Alcohol is one of the leading causes of heart disease.

Warning Signs Of A Heart Attack

When considering how sudden a heart attack can be, it is all the more important to know the warning signs before one occurs. Awareness of these indicators helps potential heart attack victims know when to seek emergency care and also helps medical professionals make a prompt diagnosis for immediate action.

Chest Pain

Despite the common misconception that chest pain is the first and most prominent sign, a heart attack can present itself in many different ways. Chest pain is more likely to be the case with men than with women, who often report other primary symptoms (see below). Regardless of frequency, any sudden chest pain should be a cause for concern. Victims suffering from chest pain will also feel pressure on the chest which may go on for a few minutes, or occur in patterns.

Nausea & Vomiting

This may be the subtlest of symptoms, as nausea and vomiting often result from a wide variety of illnesses. Be sure not to mistake these symptoms as just a reaction to a large winter meal.

Upper Body Pain

Many people associate this with a sharp pain in the left arm. While this can certainly be a warning sign, it is important to know that pain can occur elsewhere. The back, shoulders, neck, jaw, and abdomen may also experience severe pain.

What Is A Silent Heart Attack?

Aside from the more well-known warning signs, the lesser-known silent heart attack may be the most alarming. This type of attack will occur with little to no symptoms at all and should be taken seriously. Frighteningly, a 2016 study suggests that up to 45% of heart attacks are silent. These are reasons why it is even more important to be health conscious and aware of the higher potential for heart attack risk during winter.

Heart Attack Risk Prevention

There are several things to consider in taking better care of one’s health during winter to avoid heart attack risk. These preparations include lowering cholesterol, maintaining a stable blood pressure level, and promoting a healthy immune system.

Stay Warm

Maintaining a regulated body temperature is the best possible way the keep the heart from overworking itself in the cold winter months. This keeps the blood vessels from tightening, thus reducing the need for rapid blood flow to help keep the body warm. Dress in comfortable layers, paired with a hat and gloves.

Go Inside Frequently

By returning indoors often, the body isn’t exposed to lower temperatures for extended periods. Take a fifteen-minute time out from outdoor activities, preferably while sitting by the fireplace with some piping hot cocoa.

Healthy Diet

While it may be tempting to go for second helpings during those comforting hot winter meals, remember that high fat leads to high cholesterol, which strains the heart. Heavier meals should be consumed in moderation while sticking to heart-healthy foods for the majority of the time. Food such as oats, healthy low-sodium nuts, fresh berries, and fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids all work together to lower cholesterol.

Visit A 24-Hour Emergency Center Near You

Understanding how cold weather affects the heart and being better prepared provides the necessary tools for a safe and heart-healthy winter. If you or a loved one experiences chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack, visit The Emergency Center‘s convenient 24-hour location in San Antonio.


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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644