Save Heart from Wintry Catastrophe

Winter may precipitate attack in heart patients

Save Heart from Wintry Catastrophe

New Delhi, December 17:  As winter progresses with cold nip in the air sharpening further, heart gets under siege. Given the rush of the people with heart problems, especially old ones, already starting in Delhi-NCR hospitals, heart experts have given a wake call. Heart Care Foundation of India has released advisories about heart warming precautions.

1e2573eNorth India is suddenly in the grip of cold waves and this suddenness is what triggers heart catastrophe. Experts have warned that being off guard during sudden dip in temperatures, heart patients may end up having heart attacks.  Dr. Purushottam Lal, a well known cardiologist ( angioplasty expert)  and Director of Metro Group of Hospitals has informed a dramatic increase in hospitalization of old people suffering from respiratory and cardiac diseases.

Dr. Lal says, ‘Protecting heart is always important, but people with a history of heart problems are particularly at risk during the cold weather. People should wear something that covers the nose and mouth because cold air can get into the body, and it constricts the blood vessels and airways.’

“Usually people over 60 are more prone to heart attack and stroke during winters. In such cases, the common risk factor is hypertension. There will be chances of loss of consciousness, brain hemorrhage, and severe chest pain associated with perspiration, weakness and breathlessness. At times, even fits can take place. The immunity level decreases at such age and these age groups become more vulnerable during the winter.

Children, the elderly and those with heart diseases are at a greater risk. As people age, their ability to maintain a normal internal body temperature often decreases. Because elderly people are relatively more susceptible to even moderately cold conditions, they can suffer hypothermia (when the body’s core temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism), he said.

Hypothermia is a condition when the body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness.

According to Dr. Lal, people with coronary heart disease often suffer angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort) when they are in cold weather. Some studies suggest that harsh winter may increase a person’s risk of heart attack due to overexertion.

Similarly, cases of respiratory tract infections have also increased this season. The number of people reporting respiratory infections in the city’s hospitals since temperatures have plummeted has increased by 20 per cent. Dr. Lal said, ‘There are many patients who are visiting the hospital with complaints of cold, cough and sore throat. The cardiologist warned that asthma patients are more vulnerable to viral diseases. They should avoid breathing in fog in the morning and evening. People should inhale steam regularly in the winter. Allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis (running nose and breathing problems) and respiratory diseases are common among adults while bronchial pneumonia is common among children.

‘Air pollution and temperature changes are the most frequently reported environmental triggers for acute myocardial infarction (AMI)’ he said.

Dr KK AggarwalDr KK Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India,  Sr. National Vice President and Secretary General Elect- IMA has released an advisory after seeing sudden rise in the number of patients suffering from heart ailments in the National capital. According to him, the reason for this is that when temperatures drop, heart has to work harder to help maintain body’s core temperature. For those who already suffer from heart ailments, the extra exertion on the heart often causes further complications.

Dr. Aggarwal says, ‘It is extremely important to raise awareness about the adverse effects cold weather can have on heart patients. I always advise my patents that those who stay outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion to prevent accidental hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 950F. This means that the body does not produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough. Hypothermia can be life-threatening’.

The most common cause of death in hypothermia is heart failure. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness. Children, the elderly and those with heart disease are especially at risk of developing hypothermia. With advancing age, the ability of the body to maintain a normal internal body temperature often declines. The elderly seem to be relatively insensitive to moderately cold conditions, so they can develop hypothermia without them being aware that they are in danger.

People with coronary heart disease often suffer angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort) during winters. The cold weather may increase the risk of heart attack due to overexertion.

Besides cold temperatures, high winds, snow and rain also can cause loss of body heat. High winds remove the layer of heated air from around your body. Even at 300F in a 30-mile wind, the cooling effect is equal to 150F. In the same way, dampness causes the body to lose heat faster than it would at the same temperature in drier conditions.

•        To keep warm, wear layers of clothing. This traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation.

•        Also, wear a hat or head scarf.

•        Heat can be lost through your head.

•        Ears are especially prone to frostbite.

•        Keep hands and feet warm, too, as they tend to lose heat rapidly.

•        Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before going outdoors or when outside. Alcohol gives an initial feeling of warmth, because blood vessels in the skin expand. Heat is then drawn away from the body’s vital organs.

•      If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or if you are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to exercising in cold weather.

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      • Dr KK Aggarwal

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