Heart at more risk in winter, says India’s only female cardiac electrophysiologist Dr Vanita Arora

The plummeting mercury raises the risk of getting a heart-attack and it is the time when one needs to remain extra cautious.
As viscosity of blood increases with the drop in temperature, the number of cases of heart attacks and other coronary artery diseases increase during winters.


The limited awareness about the triggers that lead to heart attack and precautions which can be taken to avoid it during winters is a major cause of worry, says Dr Vanita Arora, Associate Director and Head, Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab and Arrhythmia Services, Max Hospital.

In a tete-a-tete with Jayashankar Menon, she discusses about the vulnerability of the heart in order to empower people suffering from cardiovascular diseases with the right kind of prevention, more so during the winter season.

JM: What are the right kind of prevention people suffering from cardiovascular diseases need to take during winter?
VA: People become more prone to heart attacks in winters. The arteries that arise from the aorta become constricted with the fall in temperatures, as a result of which the heart has to put more effort to pump the blood. This makes the heart stress out and it leads to a heart attack. It is more risky for those who do not have any inkling about pre-existing heart conditions. Therefore, it is very important to keep a constant check on cardiovascular risk factors and make sure that the winter season brings no harm to your health.

JM: Are people with high cholesterol vulnerable to heart attack in winter?
VA: Cholesterol levels fluctuate significantly with the change in the season, which may leave people with borderline high cholesterol with greater cardiovascular risk during the winter months. Apart from managing cholesterol levels, it is crucial that we keep small things in mind and do not stress the heart.

JM: What are the precautions one need take in winter?
VA: First and foremost, do not ever indulge in overdoing anything and exhausting yourself. Give yourself a break and take frequent rest breaks so that you do not overstress your heart, even if that means alteration in your otherwise intense workout regime. Secondly, avoid going for a walk in the morning in extreme chilly days and you can shift your walks in the evening when it is still sunny.

JM: What dietary controls one should have in winter?
VA: People also end up eating more than the normal quantity in winter, but eating a large meal at one go can put an extra load on your heart. Avoid. It is rather preferable to eat small quantities at regular intervals. Do not over indulge in alcohol, thinking that it will only help you in keeping warm and cozy. Too much of alcohol intake can cause atrial fibrillation, a common irregular heartbeat problem called Arrhythmia millions of people suffer from. On consultation of the doctor, one can also keep pills with them and can consume it on confronting breathlessness or chest pain. Pills like Sorbitrate when consumed prevent attacks of chest pain. It helps to buy time to see a doctor.

JM: What do we do to keep hypothermia at bay?
VA: Heart failure leads to most deaths in hypothermia. To keep hypothermia at bay, it is advisable to cover yourself with layers of warm clothes. Besides this, it is advisable to take a bath with warm water only. Also, never ignore any discomfort in chest, severe sweating, pain in neck arms, jaws and shoulders or shortness of breath. All this might give you a warning signal. Visit a doctor if you come across any of these symptoms. Regular check-ups are always advisable. It will help you preempt any big health trouble. It is rightly said that ‘prevention is better than cure’!


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