Dec 3, 2008

Health - Cardiac arrest cases increase in winters: Doctors

With mercury set to go down making 'weak hearts' even more vulnerable to disorder, it is time for cardiac patients to spend more time indoors and cut down exposures to cold.

Doctors claim that they have noticed an increase of about 20 per cent incidence of cardiac arrests in winters as compared to warmer months as low temperatures increase the possibility of spasms in arteries.

"The main problem faced by cardiac patients in winters is greater chances of increased blood pressure levels. This in turn increases the needed quantity of BP controlling medicines," said Dr Vishal Rastogi, senior cardiologist at the Escorts Heart Institute in Delhi.

Low temperature is a major cause of spasms in arteries that carry blood to the heart, thus forcing the heart to pump more blood, increasing BP levels and raising the probability of heart attacks.

"The incidences are higher in India as we do not live in artificially regulated temperatures," said Rastogi.

"It is therefore imperative for people with heart ailments to take as much precaution as possible to prevent exposure to cold," he said.

For all those who have a routine for early morning walks, should delay it to post sunrise.

"The appropriate time to venture out for morning walks in the winter months should be 8:30 am as the early morning chill has subsided, with the sun appearing on the skies," said Dr Umesh Gupta, senior cardiologist at Umkal Healthcare.

Temperature often plummets to less than 5 degree Celsius in the peak winter months of December and January. The normal heart has a reserve potential of 400-500 per cent, said Gupta.

While the season affects everybody in the same way, increasing the amount of labour required by the heart, a person with a normal heart hardly feels the increased level of stress.

The same can be dangerous for a person with a history of cardiac ailments.

"People having a healthy heart will not even realise that the muscle in their chest has increased its labour by over four times or 400 per cent. However, this can be harmful for a cardiac patient," said Gupta.

With general cold-related ailments like common cold and cough also increasing the chances of cardiac attacks, some doctors also advise administering of anti-cold vaccines right at the outset of winter.

"The best way to keep the heart healthy in winters is to avoid all cold-related problems. Therefore, we also advise people prone to heart diseases to take anti-cold vaccinations that keep common cold, cough and other such problems at bay," Rastogi said.

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