Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, Tara Parker-Pope had a piece on why heart attack risks rise in winter and what you can do about it. I find this interesting and imporant information to summarize in today's post. It is something I have thought for a long time but only now seeing in the media:
Here's what the article says:
Most people associate winter with flu and cold season, as well as dry skin, but few link it with a much higher risk of heart attack. But according to a study by researchers in Massachusetts, the risks for heart attack in January are twice those in July for the general population. And the study goes on that the risk of a fatal heart attack is much greater in cold than in warm weather.
And in fact the study finds that heart attack risks and other health problems follow cyclinal patterns. Did you know that cholesterol cycles peak in December for men and in January for women; there are more ER visits on Mondays than any other day of the week; and strokes and heart attacks occur more frequently between 6 am and noon on any given day?
Reasons given for this are numerous and often self-evident: Cold weather constricts veins and arteries; holiday meals, ladened with fats and sugars, are often eaten late in the day and then slept on; in the season of holiday celebrations too much alcohol and tobacco often damage heart muscles irrevocably; and finally less light in the northern hemisphere during winter and lower vitamin D levels may have subtle effects not only on one's mood but also on their heart.
Warmer weather and sunlight probably have a sanguine effect on one's
general health as well as one's heart.
This makes perfect sense to me. So what can we do to lessen our risks of heart attacks, now the leading cause of death in women too?
----Be aware that prolonged time in the cold constricts blood vessels and increases your risks of cardio-vascular events.
----Eat less sugar and fats and dairy, and if you eat them at all, do it earlier in the day rather than later at night. And if you're going to sin, sin earlier in the day rather than later (my own two cents worth).
----Take cod liver oil with high levels of vitamin D, or some other form of this important vitamin.
----Get sunlight on your face and in your eyes as much as possible in the winter. It brightens your mood and reduces other health risks considerably.
----Stay away from smoky rooms with little fresh air.
----Whenever possible, replace butter and other fats with extra virgin olive oil (my own two cents worth). I even eat olive oil on what little bread I consume.
----Remember to walk briskly everyday. The more we don't want to exercise and put it off, the more our bodies really need it. And don't go out and shovel snow in the cold, if you're not in shape for it.
----And if you are at a higher risk for heart attack and can, spend the winter in a warmer climate where you can get more daily exercise and sunlight.
These recommendation are all cumulative, but it's never too late to start and make them into winter disciplines to live by.