`Tis the season for heart attacks?

December 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEART AND STROKE

‘Tis the season for joy and cheers … and cardiac events. Okay, I don’t want to dampen your high spirits during the holidays but it has been shown again and again that there is a distinct spike in the number of heart attacks during December-January, particular around Christmas and New Year. According to WebMD, there has been generally an overall 5% increase heart-related deaths during the holiday season based on mortality statistics from 1973 to 2001. Let us look at the reasons why.

Is it the weather?

The winter season does have some adverse effects on our heart health. The cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, which in turn elevates blood pressure. Blood clots also occur more easily. Extremely cold temperatures and physical exertion put too much burden on the heart. These are the ingredients for coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

Is it the holiday season?

A study published in circulation reported:

“The number of cardiac deaths is higher on Dec. 25 than on any other day of the year, second highest on Dec. 26, and third highest on Jan. 1.”

And this pattern is not only true in the cold northern parts of the US. The same trend has been observed in Los Angeles where winters are not necessarily freezing. Some hypotheses put forward by health experts are:

  • People delay consulting their doctors despite feeling ill until after the holidays, mainly to avoid disrupting holiday festivities and travel plans.

“People just tend to put off seeking medical help during the holidays. They tend to wait till afterwards, which I think is a mistake.”

  • GPs are not easily available whereas hospitals and emergency clinics are short-staffed during the holiday. These can lead again to delay in treatment as well as decrease in the quality of care of those who decide to go to the hospital.
  • The holiday season is simply a very unhealthy season when people eat too much, drink too much, forego on exercise, get too much stress and get too little sleep.

“People tend to gain weight during the holiday season and take in more salt, which can put additional stress on a weakened heart.”

However, all the risk factors that may lead to increased heart attacks at this time of the year are actually modifiable. Dr. Robert A. Kloner, a researcher at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California gives us the following tips:

How the weather affects our health

July 16, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

We all have heard the idiom „being under the weather.“ But there is some truth in this. The weather can affect our health, though not in the most obvious way in cases of extremely hot or cold temperatures. Here are some examples of weather-related health issues (source: WebMD):

Nonallergic rhinitis. Stuffy nose, scratch throat but anti-histamines do not help? Chances are, it is not allergy. Nonallergic rhinitis is frequently mistaken for allergic rhinitis and the reason is obvious: the signs and symptoms are the same. However the treatments are not the same. For nonallergic rhinitis, decongestants and nasal sprays might work. However, doctors warn against self-medication.

Asthma. Depending of what triggers the asthma, weather changes can result in inflamed airways. Thunderstorms, for example, can trigger asthma by generating winds that carry pollens closer to the group – and your nose. This, however, is only true for pollen-triggered asthma. Exercise-induced asthma can be triggered by cold weather. When we breath fast outdoors in the winter time, the air exchange doesn’t get to warm up. The airways are cooled down and react by swelling. The ozone in the air is another asthma trigger. The ozone levels tend to be high on very hot days.

Migraines. What triggers that splitting headache? No one really knows but each individual migraine sufferer can tell you what trigger their specific migraine and 53% of those asked blame the weather. A friend of mine blames the current European heat wave for her worsening migraines. Others believe it is the cold winter wind. Experts think that sudden changes – be it temperature, air pressure, and air humidity can trigger migraines. Living in an area with more or less stable weather conditions help.

Depression. Winter blues is a real medical condition, brought about by lack of sunlight in the wintertime. No wonder that therapy for this problem is – go get some light!

Arthritis. Cold, damp weather can be hard on the joints, as arthritis patients would tell you. It is no wonder senior citizens with arthritic joints tend to move where it is warm: the Americans to Florida, the northern Europeans down south to Spain.

Your blood pressure and the weather

January 14, 2009 by  

The temperatures are going down, but your blood pressure is going up. Is this logical?

It is, according to a French research study which observed that blood pressure varies with the season. The data of the study is based on measurements on 8,801 French adults older than 65 years and followed up for more than two years.

The study results show “that blood pressure in elderly people varies significantly with the seasons, with rates of high blood pressure readings rising from 23.8% in summer to 33.4% in winter. Blood pressure increases were seen in both the systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) numbers.” The average systolic blood pressure was 5 mmHg higher in the winter months than in the summer months.

What is more disturbing is that the temperature-related effects on high blood pressure become more pronounced with age, and as observed in this study, in people older than 80 years.

The mechanism behind this seasonal variation is not clear but “possible explanations of the cold weather effect include activation of the sympathetic nervous system (which helps control how the body responds to stress) and release of the hormone catecholamine, which may increase blood pressure by speeding the heart rate and decreasing the responsiveness of blood vessels.

The findings of the study help shed light on the well-documented seasonal variations in illness and death caused by stroke and aneurysms or rupture of the blood vessels. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the number 3 cause of mortality in the US, after heart disease and cancer.

And now that it is winter time in the northern hemisphere, people, especially the elderly should closely monitor their blood pressure. However, the increase in blood pressure in winter time should not actually discourage people from venturing outdoors. The American Stroke Association and American Heart Association encourage physical activity such as walking – even in winter time through the Start! Heart Walk. Connect with other walkers (sole-mates!) in your area using the My Start! Community. Track your walking progress using the free online tool My Start! Online Tracker. The brochure Start! Walking This Winter can give you some basic tips on how to enjoy the winter outdoors without endangering your health.


Photo credit: stock.xchng

Rainy, Cold Weather: Not Good for People with Arthritis?

October 28, 2007 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

Excuse my recent absence, I’ve been under a literally bad weather. You see, I work in our not-fully finished house near an open window where there is an optimum signal for my 3G signal. When it rains (especially if directed sideways) the cellphone (my modem) and the back of my PC (monitor and CPU) will get wet.

The last couples of days , we had to endure dark gray skies and continuous heavy downpour. You know… that kind of downpour that has no intention of stopping, like the heavens has a big hole in it. This kind of weather is our normal this time of the year, we are just thankful the rains and winds didn’t brew into a full-blown storm. While in the temperate countries, it must be starting to get really cold, temperatures dropping continuously it won’t be long before it starts snowing.

I haven’t been in any temperate country so I have no idea how cold cold can be in winter. But here in the tropics, this time of year until sometime in February is relatively cold, isn’t good for people (young and old) who are suffering from arthritis. For once, if it keeps raining, it is a hassle to go outside to stretch your legs. Besides, during cold weathers, arthritic pains seems to escalate, aging bones need some warmth.

If arthritic people in the tropics are suffering how much more those people in temperate countries.

Today, the weather finally hold up. Skies are still gray, we haven’t been grazed by sunlight yet but at least it has stopped raining.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.