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Is your heart ready to brave winter?
Winter is slowly setting in and with it a hike in number of people suffering from heart and lung ailments is noticed. The cold weather makes people lethargic; they end up exercising less and tend to resort to comfort food as a way of keeping their body warm.

Several people also become victims of winter depression and end up eating and sleeping more. Alcohol consumption also goes up with the festivities of Diwali and Christmas. All these can cause a spike in the number of complications suffered by people with existing lifestyle diseases namely hypertension, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Commenting on this, Dr. KK Sethi, Director, Cardiology, Delhi Heart & Lung Institute said in a statement, "Cold temperatures cause the heart arteries to constrict thereby restricting the blood and oxygen flow to the heart. This often results in a rise in the blood pressure of patients with hypertension or existing cardiovascular disease. Chances of blood clot formation are also enhanced since blood platelets are more active and stickier in cold temperatures. It is found that there is a 50% increased risk of angina and heart attacks during winters as opposed to other seasons. The cold weather also brings with it an increased incidence of Vitamin D deficiency, which in addition to its skeletal effects also puts a person at risk of various cardiovascular ailments such as ischemic heart diseases, congestive heart failure, heart attacks and strokes. The reason for the high incidence of Vitamin D deficiency in the winter months is the reduction in the daylight hours and the tendency of people to remain indoors. It is important that adequate sun exposure is sought during the winter months."

Adding to this, Dr. Balbir Singh- Senior Interventional Cardiologist & Chairman, Electrophysiology & Pacing, Medanta, The Medicity Hospital said in a statement, "During winters we notice winter depression setting in especially amongst the elderly population. This causes an increase in stress levels and hypertension putting added pressure on their already weak heart. People suffering from winter depression are seen indulging in high sugar, trans fat and sodium comfort foods, which can be extremely dangerous for those with diabetes and high cholesterol. Also, in cold weather the heart pumps harder in order to maintain body heat thus tightening the arteries. All of these factors combined together can trigger a heart attack, especially in people with existing cardiac problems and the elderly. Any unusual symptoms like discomfort in the chest, sweating, pain in the jaw, shoulders, neck or arms as well as shortness of breath should not be ignored. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced healthy diet can help overcome this issue. Last but not the least, avoid taking part in any strenuous activities as it will create unnecessary pressure on your heart."

Some ways that can be adopted to protect the heart during the winter months include consulting the physician if a major change in the blood pressure is recorded. Lifestyle changes such as taking up low impact physical activities like going for a brisk walk, jogging, yoga or aerobics class, as well as getting out during the afternoon when the sunlight is at its peak and avoiding spending extended amounts of time outside during early mornings and nights when the temperature is the lowest will also prove beneficial.

One should abstain from drinking alcohol and smoking during the winter season as the amount of oxygen in the lungs is lower in cold temperatures, and smoking can trigger respiratory ailments, cardiovascular complications and high blood pressure.

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