As winter sets in, health experts have sounded alarms regarding the increased health risks during the season. As the temperature falls during the winter, symptoms like chest pain, difficulty in breathing, heaviness in the chest, getting tired quickly, etc. are commonly seen among people.
The cold causes blood vessels to contract. This can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Meanwhile, Dr Arun Mohanty, senior cardiologist at Delhi’s Gangaram Hospital, spoke to ANI about the increased health risks during the cold weather. He said, “Cold is a stress for human beings. The body tries to achieve a warm temperature, once you are exposed to the cold, the body tries to adapt to the atmosphere. So in that process, the heart rate goes up, the blood pressure goes up and your circulation speed goes up. In such cases, if a person is vulnerable, there might occur a silent block or blockage that gets eroded and there is also platelet, which is a clotting factor that gets aggravated by cold exposure. So, all these factors lead to clot formation in a silent plan and there can be increased incidences of heart attack in winter which is a known fact, particularly for those who have higher risk factors in the form of smoking, hypertension, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. These people are more prone and high cholesterol.”
“So, they should take precautions. Everybody should take precautions in winter, particularly outdoor exercises, which should be avoided as long as possible you can do exercise in an indoor controlled atmosphere where the temperature is controlled. You are not exposed to the extreme cold,” the doctor said.
“Not only this, many people consume hot water in winter, it is beneficial for you, but people who consume alcohol believe that its consumption will provide relief in winter which is not true, it is harmful to your body,” he added.
Dr Mohanty further said, “Take intermittently some warm drinks to help your body to adapt to the temperature. But alcohol is absolutely dangerous in this cold winter because once you take alcohol you feel a false sense of warmth inside that exposes the body to tremendous cold. You don’t realize that you’re exposing your body to a temperature that the body is not adapted to and that process usually results in severe issues. Many things can get precipitated, particularly heart attacks, and arrhythmic deaths. The heartbeat becomes irregular and those people who are collapsing suddenly either by heart attack or by some other factors have a predisposing heart condition where the heartbeat becomes alarmingly high which is known as ventricular tachycardia ventricular fibrillation, in that process, they collapse and die.”
“In the winter, wear warm clothes in layers. Once you are wearing layers, there is air insulation between every layer. Cover your extremities, and do moderate physical activity, not extreme physical activity. Develop the endurance then if you’re used to doing a moderate activity continue the same, particularly in a controlled atmosphere,” he added.
Dr Mohanty added, “However, these days there has been an increase in heart-related diseases among the youth too. Many times such cases come to light in which people suddenly become unconscious while sitting or walking, have a heart attack and die.”
The doctor explained what is the reason behind the increase in such cases among youth. Dr Mohanty said that the lifestyle of youths has a tremendous role in increasing health risks.
“The lifestyle of the youth has a tremendous role in increased health risks. We seeing more deaths after COVID-19. Though there is no scientific data, people who got the COVID vaccination and COVID-19 infection might have ongoing cardiac inflammation or myocardial inflammation, when they are exposed to brisk activities, brisk exercise or any physical vigorous activity, the risk of heart attacks or strokes increases. So those deaths are slightly more post-COVID which surprises me also, but we don’t have any scientific basis to support that. But youth particularly in India, have more diabetes, and there is an equal incidence of diabetes and hypertension. They have high Blood Pressure, they are obese. Their physical activity is poor and those things are contributing.
The atherosclerotic process of coronary disease starts in teens. So as a youth in 20 or 30s, we must be adequately taking precautions to avoid these risk factors to be healthy,” he added. He further said, “In OPD, we are seeing more hypertensive North Indians; they have high BPs in winter because they have very less sweating. The peripheral vessels that are exposed to cold get constricted, and the heart rate goes up to adapt the body to the exposure to cold in this process. If the BP goes off, that is a problem. Secondly, now they have more angina if somebody has an underlying disease, so the angina severity goes up.”
“The comorbid, particularly those who have an underlying cardiac disease, particularly in the form of heart dysfunction or previous cardiac procedures, should stay indoors and they should try to do very mild to moderate activities, particularly if they are comfortable wearing warm clothes, not to expose themselves to very intense cold and the normal population they can continue moderate activities. I will never advise you to stop physical activities just because of the cold. Normal people can continue moderate activities, as usual, but they should keep themselves hydrated. They should keep themselves warm by wearing warm clothes. If possible, try to limit them to indoor activities particularly where the cold exposure is very low,” he further said.
The doctor further said, “Smoking and alcohol are absolutely dangerous in all weathers and in winter, it is worse. Because winter as I told you, it activates the platelet count in our body, which is a clotting factor. Smoking also activates the platelets tremendously so both these factors can cause aggressive platelet aggregation and in normal individuals or with minimal disease they can get coronary. So that’s why it’s important not to smoke in any weather, but particularly in winter. And alcohol, as I told you, gives a very false sense of warmth from inside. So you don’t realize what you are exposed to and what kind of activities you are doing. So in that process, you expose your body to intense cold which can cause damage to your body.”
The doctor said that if suddenly your heartbeat becomes very fast or your blood pressure becomes high, symptoms like heaviness in the chest, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath while doing any work etc. are seen, it is advisable to visit a doctor immediately.
(with inputs from ANI)