‘Winter can trigger heart ailments’

Winter is high time for heart attacks. Numerous studies have shown that hospitalisation and mortality rates for heart failure patients are higher during winters. My Medical Mantra tries to understand how and why

‘Winter can trigger heart ailments’
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  • Heart Failure is a chronic coronary artery disease (CAD) which despite its literal connotation doesn’t mean that the heart has failed and is about to stop working, rather it is a potentially life-threatening condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood as required by the body.
  • An International Congestive Heart Failure (INTER-CHF) study shows that the exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalisation or death in heart failure patients. There are several reasons to this: During cold weather, smog and pollutants settle on ground leading to chest infections and breathing problems.

As sweating doesn’t occur, the extra water gets accumulated in lungs leading to failure symptoms. Finally, due to weather change various respiratory infections are also more common.

As observed by Dr Sundeep Mishra, Professor of Cardiology, AIIMS, New Delhi “There is a higher risk of mortality in the winter seasons than in the summer seasons. We have also seen an increase in the number of cases reported on heart failure, especially at night. The aim of long term treatment is to prevent these acute exacerbations, as each episode can be potentially life threatening. As the weather becomes colder, we see a surge in hospitalisation related to heart failure.”

The cold weather can create unfavourable environment for heart patients, especially for people who are above the age of 50 or have had a history of heart problems, diabetes and hypertension.

Additionally, the risk of heart failure in existing cardiac patients is nearly 4 to 5 times more during the winter season. Symptoms usually indicative of heart diseases are commonly ignored during winters — unusual gastric problems, profuse sweating, and any pain that lasts for more than 15 minutes.

Despite obvious symptoms of heart failure sometimes physicians are unable to diagnose the impending or worsening heart failure as symptoms are often confused with chills due to cold weather and no one doubts what’s happening. Commonly, these symptoms start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. At this point, often individuals affected aren’t sure what’s wrong with them and may wait too long before getting help.