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Protecting Dad’s Heart in the Winter

January 2nd, 2018

By: Linda Kunicki

bigstock-Senior-Man-85464194.jpgDid you know that the number of heart attacks rises during the winter months? According to a report published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the number of deaths related to heart disease rises in the winter and reaches its high between December 25 and January 7. The reason is not completely understood, but it seems to be related to the way cold weather affects the body.

How Cold Affects the Heart
One theory suggests that the decrease in daylight hours may be one factor. Having fewer hours of sunlight changes hormone levels in the body, including cortisol levels. This may make a person more susceptible to a cardiovascular event.

In addition, the cold weather affects arteries, making them constrict. The constricted arteries decrease blood flow to the heart, thus reducing the amount of oxygen the heart receives. However, the cold makes the heart need more oxygen because it is working harder to maintain the body’s temperature. 

Finally, there also seems to be a correlation between exerting oneself in the earlier hours of the day. During the winter, people tend to do things like shovel the walk or take care of other outside chores early in the day because it gets dark earlier. However, researchers believe a rise in blood pressure early in the day increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. 

Preventing a Heart Attack
To reduce the risk of heart attack in the winter, experts suggest being mindful of conditions that could make heart attack more likely. They also say to be aware of heart attack symptoms and see a doctor for anything concerning, even if you aren’t sure it’s heart related. Other ways to reduce the risk of heart attack include:

  • Take Frequent Breaks: If your aging family member still shovels their own snow, remind them to take frequent breaks. 
  • Avoid Alcohol Before Exertion: Alcohol can give a person a false sense of being warm, which can cause them to underestimate how the cold is affecting their body.
  • Wear Layers: Advise seniors to wear layers of clothing when they are out in the cold. The layers trap air warmed by the body between them, providing extra protection. Also, don’t forget a hat and gloves. Fingers and ears are susceptible to frostbite.

Another way to help prevent heart attack in an older adult during the winter is to hire an elderly care provider to assist them. An elderly care provider can help ensure your family member does not overexert themselves in the cold. They can help with clearing and salting walks. An elderly care provider can also help the senior to dress in layers of warm clothing. Also, if the person has a heart condition, the elderly care provider can remind them to take medications and watch for signs that indicate a visit to the doctor is needed.


Sources
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/Cold-Weather-and-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_315615_Article.jsp#.WigP9kqnHIU
https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/preventing-winter-heart-attacks#1

IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED-ONE ARE CONSIDERING IN-HOME ELDERY CARE IN FOREST PARK, IL, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT BRIGHTSTAR CARE OF LA GRANGE. CALL TODAY 708-551-2500.