Is winter “heart failure season”?
According to Dr. Vishal Rastogi, Additional Director, Cardiac Sciences, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi, “During winter season, there is a rise in incidence of conditions like chest infection, increased heart rate and blood pressure that can worsen heart failure. Low temperatures can cause blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow adding more strain to the heart. In our clinical observation, we see around 20-30% of heart failure patients getting hospitalized during winter season. Therefore, for heart failure patients, timely treatment is crucial for effective management of their condition, especially in winters. One should follow their prescribed treatment regularly along with healthy lifestyle and dietary modifications.”
Here are few risk factors for Heart Failure, especially in winters:
High Blood Pressure: Cold weather can cause fluctuation in blood pressure levels and an increase in the heart rate. Consequently, this can lead to hospitalizations in Heart Failure patients.
Air pollution: During winters, smog and pollutants tend to settle closer to the ground thereby increasing the chances of chest infections and breathing problems. Heart failure patients normally experience shortness of breath and pollutants can worsen their symptoms, which can lead to hospitalization in severe cases.
Lack of perspiration: Low temperatures reduce perspiration. As a result, the body might not be able to get rid of the extra water and it can cause fluid build-up in lungs, worsening the cardiac function in heart failure patients.
Lack of Vitamin D: Vitamin D prevents the build-up of scar tissues in the heart which protects against heart failure, post a heart attack. In winters, due to lack of proper exposure to sunlight, low Vitamin D levels tend to increase the risk of Heart Failure.
Take care of your heart during winter
Awareness about the ‘winter effect’ should encourage patients and their families to pay closer attention to symptoms of heart failure and manage the condition with proper medication and lifestyle changes. Heart Failure patients and people with pre-existing heart conditions should be particularly careful during winter season and incorporate the following regime:
Visit your cardiologist and keep your blood pressure in check
Reduce consumption of water and salt as we do not perspire much during winters
Heart Failure patients should exercise regularly, however, indoor exercises are recommended to avoid extreme weather conditions
Don’t forget / skip your medication, even if you are feeling better
Protect yourself against winter ailments – cough, cold, flu etc.
-By Dr Vishal Rastogi, Additional Director, Cardiac Sciences, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi