Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cold Heart

It’s a routine familiar to many of us. We wake up in the morning, peer round the curtains and check what the weather is doing.

If it’s cold we reach for our hat and scarf, and if it’s warm, shorts and sunglasses are order of the day.

But if you’ve got heart disease the weather can play a much more important role. In fact, a new study, funded largely by the BHF, has found colder than average temperatures may increase someone’s risk of heart attack.

Cold weather

Extreme cold weather can affect the heart by increasing heart rate and blood pressure. And chilly temperatures could also affect blood cells which could increase the risk of developing blood clots. A blood clot is often involved in the blocking of a coronary artery leading to heart attack.

So, if the weather forecast predicts plummeting temperatures then heart patients must remember to wrap up warm and wear several layers of clothing – including a hat, gloves and nice thick socks.

And it’s also very important to avoid sudden exertion. If you’re a heart patient and you need to shovel snow off your driveway or push the car, leave it to someone else. Even better, stay indoors and keep the heating on.

And remember to keep an eye on vulnerable friends, family and neighbours during those cold snaps.

Hot weather

At the opposite end of the spectrum, hot weather can also play its part in the lives of heart patients.

The advice is simple; don’t stay in the heat for long periods and make sure you drink plenty of fluids.

But why is drinking water so important? Hot weather can cause excessive sweating which increases the loss of fluid from your body and, in turn, reduces your total blood volume.

It means the workload on your heart and the demand for oxygen is increased, which can lead to angina if you have coronary heart disease.

It’s a running joke that we all love to talk about the weather, but it can play an important part in the life of anyone suffering from heart disease – the UK’s biggest killer.

By Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse

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