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Tuesday July 05, 2022

Experts advise how people can keep their hearts beating warmly in winter

By News Desk
January 16, 2022
Experts advise how people can keep their hearts beating warmly in winter

“The mercury dropped to 9.7 degrees Celsius on Saturday night in Karachi, making it one of the coldest nights of the year. The westerly cold wave currently gripping the city may continue till the end of January. Another westerly system is expected to enter Balochistan and Sindh via Iran after January 16,” according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

“The onset of colder temperatures can pose significant problems to older adults, especially those with heart disease. Because it’s the leading cause of death worldwide, precautions should be taken when the temperatures drop,” said Prof Faisal Ahmed, consultant cardiologist and head of the Cardiology Department, Liaquat National Hospital, Karachi, at a seminar titled ‘Winter & Increased Heart Attack Risk’, held by the Neurospinal & Cancer Care Postgraduate Institute, Karachi, on Saturday.

“Cold weather causes our bodies to make physiological adjustments to preserve our core temperature, which places additional stress on the body. While these adjustments are common for someone who doesn’t suffer from heart complications, they can present a challenge to individuals who do. When coping with the cold temperatures, your body goes through a series of changes, including increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased risk of blood clotting, your heart works harder and your blood vessels contract,” he said.

“The emotional stress of the winter season has also been shown to increase the level of stress hormones and, consequently, the risk of heart attack or stroke. Patients with a history of heart disease (angina chest pain, bypass surgery, heart attack, stent, or angioplasty) are most at risk in cold weather.”

Prof Faisal Ahmed explained: “Know the warning signs of a heart attack. Shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and heaviness or cramping in the chest are all signs you might be having heart problems. Women, the elderly and diabetics might get the typical chest pain, but more often they experience atypical and nonspecific symptoms, including fatigue, a fluttering sensation in the chest, flu-like symptoms, and pain in the back, shoulder or jaw.”

“It’s essential to dress warmly if you’re spending time outdoors. When you’re bundled up and engaging in physical activity, it can lead to overheating. Overheating causes your blood vessels to dilate leading to low blood pressure in someone with heart disease. A sudden drop in blood pressure can cause a heart attack. So if you’re out in the cold and start to sweat, take this as a sign to come indoors and rest,” he advised.

“Winter is cold and flu season. Low humidity brought on by cold weather and indoor heating increases your chances of getting sick. If you have heart disease the flu can be dangerous. Safeguard you this cold-weather season by getting a flu shot & Covid-19 Vaccine or its booster dose,” said Prof. Faizullah S. Lokhandwala, eminent physician and chest specialist at the Sindh Hilal-e-Ahmer House, Karachi, at the seminar.

“People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung fibrosis are more likely to develop and die from heart disease. The COPD is our nation's one of the leading causes of death, but as many as half the people who have it may not even be aware of it. The COPD can bring persistent coughing, mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Symptoms often worsen over time. Researchers have long known that severe COPD can have harmful effects on the heart, decreasing its ability to pump blood effectively,” Prof Faizullah further said.

“In order to limit the direct contact of the cold air to your lungs, breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. Breathing through your nose gives the air extra time to heat up, so it’s not as cold when it reaches your lungs. This is a small trick that can truly make the difference when battling the winter months. Exercising in the bitter cold might actually do more harm to your body than good. The frigid air burns your lungs and increases your risk of respiratory infection. The cold causes your body to internalise its heat, increasing the risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Even further, the cold increases your blood pressure, putting you at a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases. Do your body a favour by investing in a treadmill or nabbing a discounted gym membership that often becomes available in many parts of the Pakistan,” he advised.

“Get flu shot every year, if you are aged 65 or over, ask for a vaccine for pneumonia, wash your hands often, plain soap and water will do the trick. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, as recent research shows people who get enough sleep have fewer colds or flu even Covid-19, including Omicron variant symptoms. Don’t smoke and exercise regularly preferably indoors.”

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