Patiala, January 30, 2017: As the mercury dips to single digits across north India, doctors at Columbia Asia Hospitals, Patiala are advocating greater caution especially for heart patients and elderly people who face increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in extreme chilly conditions.
Over the past few days, temperatures have radically plummeted across Punjab including in Patiala which has been recording minimum temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius.
Doctors say extreme winter chill increases the risk of heart attacks, particularly in patients who have pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.
“The loss of heat from body or a fall in body’s internal temperature is dangerous for people living with cardiovascular disease. People with coronary heart disease often suffer angina or chest pain when exposure to cold weather. Clinical evidence suggests that incidence of heart attacks increase during winters. In fact, studies in several countries have shown that the number of heart attacks and even heart attack related deaths increase in the colder months. Exposure to extreme cold puts excessive pressure on the heart as it pumps warm blood to all parts of the body. Besides cholesterol levels also tend to fluctuate significantly with the change in the season, which may leave people with borderline high cholesterol with greater cardiovascular risk during the winter months. This is why vulnerable people are advised against taking excessive physical strain during winters since it has further increase the risk. ,” says Dr. Jeewan Mittal, Consultant Cardiologist at Columbia Asia Hospitals, Patiala.
As the city freezes, there is a need to increase awareness among people and educate them to take preventive measures. Risk of strokes also increases significantly during winters, even in patients who are on blood pressure medication. This is why it is important to get have your blood pressure checked regularly during winters and meet your doctor to seek advice on the need for altering medication.
“During winters the level of blood pressure tends to be higher, and there is also a rise in levels of certain proteins in the blood stream. Patients of hypertension tend to have higher blood pressure during colder months. Therefore, they must make sure they are checking their blood pressure regularly even if they are on medication. Besides, during the season, heart also has to work harder in a bid to ensure that warm blood reaches all corners of the body and the body retains heat. Sometimes, this strain can be excessive for people who already have a weak heart. This is why it is the elderly who are most at risk in winters,” explains Dr. Deepak Katyal , Consultant Cardiologist Columbia Asia Hospital, Patiala
Cardiovascular disease are on the rise in India since the past few years including in Patiala. This means we have a large number of people living with existing heart conditions and hypertension. All these people need to exercise a lot of precaution during extreme cold. According to the Global Burden of Diseases Study conducted by WHO, by 2020 India will have more than 4.77 million deaths a year due to cardiovascular diseases and 2.58 million deaths due to coronary heart diseases.
To prevent the heart from excessive stress, heart patients should avoid indulging in exhausting tasks that overstress them. However, indulging oneself with light yet regular exercise or physical activities is always advisable.
“Many heart attacks are also caused due to hypothermia, the condition of having an abnormally low body temperature suddenly. This happens when a person in inadequately dressed to meet the needs of winters. A common mistake people make is that they wear a heavy but single woolen clothing. This is inadequate to protect the body heat. It is important to cover the body in layers of clothing as this protects the heat from escaping the body. Several lighter layers are much better than one heavy cover,” says Dr. Jeewan Mittal
However, all this doesn’t mean that you give up your daily exercise routine during the inert months. A daily moderate to heavy exercise of atleast 30 minutes is highly advisable to prevent lifestyle disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some forms of cancer.
Tips to protect your heart in winters:
Dress yourself up in several layers of clothing
Avoid indulging in physically straining tasks
Try to stay indoors after sunset as the temperature drops significantly during night hours
· Avoid your daily walks and adopt a mild exercise regime indoors to prevent exposure