Higher death rates are consistently observed in the winter season, and many of these deaths are attributable to cardiovascular disease. The reason for this trend is partly due to the weather, but even in warm climates, an increase in deadly heart attacks is seen through the winter months. In fact, people are about 26-36% more likely to die of a heart attack, stroke, or related conditions in the winter regardless of where they live, so it is important to know what is going on that increases this risk so substantially.
Season-specific health risks
If you do live in a cold climate, you might face the risk of overstressing your heart while shoveling snow or participating in rigorous winter sports in frigid weather. Ice and snow can make even the most basic activities more strenuous, so you will want to be careful when shoveling snow by taking frequent breaks and enlisting someone to help with the job.
No matter where you live, you may be affected by the following wintertime health risks, which add further stress to your heart and make a deadly cardiac episode more likely.
- Depression – Shorter days, holiday stress, and limited physical activity are all factors in the wintertime peak of depression that is seen each year. With depression, it may be harder to stick to a healthy routine, and there are chemical changes in the brain that put more physical stress on the heart and circulatory system.
- Flu – Winter is flu season, and many people tend to underestimate just how serious the flu can be. Anyone with the flu will have a weakened immune system, but individuals with a history of cardiovascular or pulmonary diseases who have the flu will be at an exceptionally high risk for more severe complications.
- Dietary changes – Even if you have set a resolution to get back on track with a healthy diet, the break you took from eating right during the holidays can have a lasting impact.
- Reduced exercise – It is hard to get motivated to exercise when sunlight is limited and the weather outside is colder. However, this reduction in physical activity can make chores like shoveling snow, taking down holiday lights, and scraping ice off the windshield much harder on your body.
Heart smart choices for the winter
The most important thing to remember for your heart health in the winter is that managing your wellness is a full-time job. If you do see yourself slipping in your healthy routine, talk to your doctor about the best ways to get back on track before springtime rolls around. When you experience depression, don’t avoid seeking medical care by writing off your feelings as the winter blues. Finally, make sure that you take preventive measures to manage your health, starting with a flu shot. It is not too late to get immunized against the seasonal flu, which typically doesn’t peak until mid-February.