Recent research shows that there is a 26-36% greater death rate from heart attack, heart failure, or other heart diseases in the winter compared to the summer. This is true despite different locations and climates.
The study authors, Bryan Schwartz and Robert Kloner, are doctors from Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and presented their research at a conference for the American Heart Association. The doctors examined data from 1.7 million people over a four-year period. The seven handpicked locations included warm climates such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia, as well as the moderate locales of California and Washington, and the frigid winter states of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Schwartz and Kloner say there are several factors that contribute to an increase in wintertime heart attacks. Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, in turn driving up your blood pressure. Your heart is then forced to work overtime because of the decrease in blood flow. While the dip in temperature is one factor, the researchers explain that heart risk is just as vulnerable for people in warmer climates as those living in chillier regions during the winter months. Winter is also known to be the season for the flu and other viruses which can affect heart health. In addition, healthy eating and exercise habits seem to go out the window and stress levels often increase around the winter holidays compromising our health and immune system.
The most important thing to remember is that your heart doesn’t take a break in the cold. Continue to monitor chronic risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight management, exercise, and stress…even during the winter.
Source: Schwartz B, Kloner R. Season variation in cardiac death rates is uniform across different climates. Circulation, 2012; 126: A11723.