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How Cold Weather Affects Blood Circulation And Cardiovascular Health – The Chilling Facts
by Dr Niamh O’Kennedy
With snow finally falling in parts of UK, many are feeling cold to their core but what most people don’t know is that cold weather can actually bring more than a chill to their bones. Cold weather can impact how blood flows around ones body and can raise the risk of a heart attack.
Research has shown that each 1.8°F or 1°C reduction in temperature on a single day is associated with around 200 additional heart attacks; that there are 53% more heart attacks in winter; and the highest cold-induced cardiovascular risk exists just hours/days after exposure to cold. But why?
The answer is not linked to the cold temperature itself, but rather the change from warmer to colder temperatures. Sudden changes in temperature cause thermal stress for the body, which has to work harder to maintain its constant temperature. This type of stress has a profound, direct effect on the viscosity of your blood, making it thicker, more sticky and more likely to clot.
When the body is exposed to temperatures that induce shivering, blood supply is shunted from the skin to internal organs. Your blood literally leaves your veins and nips over to your organs to keep them warm. This process causes up to 1 litre of blood to shunt towards central organs, overloading them with volume.
Meanwhile, blood vessels actually constrict to help conserve body heat, which not only raises blood pressure but also creates a narrower space for blood to circulate. This can be a disaster as in this tightened space the number of platelets (tiny cells in your blood) in your circulation increases by millions and the cold turns them hyperactive – meaning they’re more likely to stick together, which can lead to clotting. The cold also encourages an increase in levels of certain proteins that can increase the risk for blood clots.
That’s enough for anyone’s ticker to contend with, so the last thing our poor bodies then need is the habitual winter rituals we Brits put it through. Leading sedentary lives; munching through those stodgy winter dinners or drinking those hot toddy’s. Whilst healthy individuals are capable of adapting to these changes, many people with underlying health conditions as well as the elderly are far less capable.
Consider blood pressure, cholesterol AND blood flow
Who knew our blood was having to work so hard in the winter? Most of us think if our heart is pumping then our blood must be too and that blood flow is a constant thing. Not so.
Within the blood there are platelets, released from bone marrow, which can change function from being smooth to spiky and sticky. In a smooth state they circulate easily but if they become spiky they can stick to the blood vessels and send out signals for other platelets to join them to form a clot. Whilst this is obviously vital in an injury, it’s dangerous if it happens inside a blood vessel and any resulting clot interrupts healthy blood flow.
Many people don’t know that as they get older their blood platelets tend to get sticky more of the time, meaning their blood flows less smoothly. Plus modern daily lifestyles can cause sticky platelets due to stress, poor diet, under or over exercise, smoking, having high cholesterol or blood pressure, being overweight or having diabetes. Generally, everyone’s blood flow can change hourly based on any of these lifestyle factors, meaning we all need to be more aware of managing it. And especially in the winter when your adding another problem for your platelets.
Many people still think they just need to manage cholesterol and blood pressure to maintain a healthy heart. But managing blood flow is just as vital.
So what can we all do to remain fighting fit this winter? Well the old adage still remains true. Wrap up, get out and get moving!
Wrap up in layers of clothing. Keep your home cosy – at least 18°C (65°F). And have regular hot meals and drinks to help your body maintain its temperature.
It may feel too cold to get those leggings on but moderate exercise is vital. Even just a brisk daily walk. But don’t overdo it. During a cold snap, letting your body adjust to the lower temperatures without causing too much strain on the heart is recommended.
No, not endless cups of coffee and that evening glass of wine. Try to keep your water intake up, even though you may feel less thirsty.
Also, visit https://www.fruitflowplus.com for an easy, natural and clinically proven way to help maintain normal blood flow – without medication or side-effects.
Since there’s nothing more us Brits like to natter about then the weather, let’s use this opportunity to raise awareness of these chilling facts and help ward off cardiovascular disease.