December 19th, 2012

Winter heart attacks

Everyone knows that I’m sure the death rate from heart attacks and strokes rises dramatically in the winter time in Canada.

And in a climate like ours, the obvious reason is that cold can have untoward effects on our health and also that when it snows, so many of us out-of-shape people do our own driveway and walkway shovelling. That hard, sudden effort in the cold heavily taxes our cardiovascular system (which, by the way, is why I always ask my wife to shovel any snow that hits our house).

But there has to be way more to it than simple cold air mal-adjustments because a recent study that compared winter heart attack rates in Pennsylvania, California, and Arizona found a similar rise in all areas, that is, heart attack rates went up pretty similarly in winter in both warm and cold weather areas of the continent.


Well, it could have to do with hormonal changes from the shorter daylight hours, it could be depressive symptoms from the same change in daylight, it could just be that we eat more poorly and exercise less in the winter, even if we live in a warmer climate.

Bottom line is simple, though: you have to be particularly vigilant during the winter to minimize your other risks for heart attacks and strokes, in other words, do your exercise. Today.

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