The temperatures are dropping and a new report in JAMA Cardiology is warning that, with the colder weather, your risk of a heart attack increases. You’ve probably heard that before, but what’s new is this is the first time a study has followed both weather data and heart attack occurrences for so long — 16 years, The Washington Post said. Data showed that heart risk was highest at below-freezing temperatures.
There is an epidemic of heart disease in the U.S. and some of the factors associated with it are obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. As today’s featured article suggests, if you’re one who is already at risk for a heart attack because of any of these factors, you have an even greater chance of having a cardiac crisis when the temperatures dip.
If you live in an area where particulate matter pollution is high, then you need to pay close attention, as even a small amount of air pollution on colder days could increase your risk of experiencing sudden cardiac death (SCD). You can read more about how air pollution poses a danger to your health by reading my article, “The Air We Breathe Is More Polluted Than You Know.”
But, in short, air pollution causes your body’s inflammatory responses to heighten as you inhale the mix of small particles and liquid droplets in the air, and previous studies have made it clear these particles team up with cold temperatures to damage both your lung and vascular tissues. This puts a strain on your circulatory system, increasing your risk of loss of oxygen to your heart muscle.
Unfortunately, even a small amount of air pollution on colder days could increase your risk of experiencing cardiac arrest, making for a perfect storm that increases inflammation and constricts blood supply to your heart. Then, when you add increased physical activity to the equation, such as shoveling snow, you place just enough additional stress on your heart to risk SCD.
Another cold weather factor you may not consider is that breathing colder air affects the ability of the cells in your nose to react to an invading virus, and thus may increase your risk of developing cold or influenza symptoms. Coupled with those air particulates, the conditions are perfect for affecting your immune system, too, making you more likely to get sick when the weather gets cold.
Fortunately, you can start pumping up your immune system now by making sure that you eat a healthy diet with plenty of healthy omega-3s, vitamin C (such as what you find in citrus fruits, red bell peppers, butternut squash, papaya, tomatoes and more) and building up adequate amounts of vitamin D, preferably through sun exposure. If you do choose to supplement, just remember that you need to take addition vitamin K2 — MK7 form — to protect your arteries.