Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

6 Strategies to Avoid a Wintertime Heart Attack

 

Whatever their cause, heart symptoms should never be taken lightly—especially  during the winter months. According to Cynthia Thaik, M.D., a cardiologist  and member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart  Association, research has shown that cardiovascular deaths spike by about 18  percent as the days shorten and the weather cools.

Why do cardiovascular concerns increase in winter?

Cold weather, being indoors more often, stress, lack of vitamin D and changes  in the daylight to nighttime ratio all play a role in increasing a person’s  overall risk of cardiac problems during the winter, says Thaik. There’s also  something about the holiday season that seems to be hard on the heart—Christmas  and New Year’s top the list of dangerous days for cardiovascular problems and  death.

And, according to recent research, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you live  in icy Wisconsin, or sunny Florida—the winter months can still take a toll on  your ticker.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico discovered that people who  lived in Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles experienced the same jump in  heart-death risk as those residing in cooler states, such as Massachusetts and  Pennsylvania.

There are things you and your loved one can do to shelter your heart against  winters’ dangerous effects:

Bundle up: Despite the findings of the University of New  Mexico study, Thaik says it’s still important to keep warm during the winter  months because temperature does have an effect on the cardiovascular system.  Cold weather can cause blood vessels to constrict, blood pressure to elevate and  blood to become more prone to clotting, according to Neal Kleiman, M.D.,  cardiologist at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston.

Don’t fall off the wagon: Bitter weather and savory comfort  foods make for an unhealthy combination—especially during the holiday season.  While it’s okay to indulge a bit during celebrations, overall Thaik urges people  to, “keep good habits going during the wintertime.” This means sticking to a  regular exercise  routine and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole  grains.

Don’t forgo meds: Just as maintaining a healthy diet and  exercise plan is important in the winter, so too is sticking to any existing  medication regimen you may have. Kleiman urges people not to “slack off on their  medications,” and other health maintenance habits.

Get happy: Seasonal  affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that strikes during the  winter months. Shorter, cooler days spent inside can cause a person to become  lethargic, hungry and uninterested. As with any type of depression, people  suffering from SAD may be less likely to practice healthy behaviors, such as  engaging in regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet. Thaik  says it’s important to avoid getting into this depressive cycle. Make sure you  take time to do things that lift up your mood, such as going for a walk, or  spending time with your family (if doing so doesn’t stress you out).

Don’t be an early bird: According to Thaik, one of the  unrecognized side effects of fewer daylight hours in the winter is that people  tend to try and start their days earlier. But, because blood pressure naturally  spikes in the morning, these early birds could be putting themselves at greater  risk for a heart  attack. She suggests keeping early morning activities to a minimum during  the winter months. “The heart likes to take time and warm up,” she says, “take  things gradually in the morning.”

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

AgingCare.com  connects family  caregivers and provides support, resources, expert advice and senior housing  options for people caring for their elderly parents. AgingCare.com is a trusted  resource that visitors rely on every day to find inspiration, make informed  decisions, and ease the stress of caregiving.

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