Cooler fall temperatures are finally here, and that means the winter season is coming up soon in the United States, and you need to learn how to preserve your heart health this upcoming season. Studies show that up to 53 percent more heart attacks occur in the winter months than in the summer months. While some some heart attacks are triggered by the stress of the holiday season, fall and winter also bring several unique heart attack risk factors.
While not all fall and winter heart attack risk factors are controllable, several are. Read on to learn three lesser-known ways to protect your heart health this upcoming cold season.
1. Take a Vitamin D Supplement
You may already know that vitamin D is important for bone health because it helps your body absorb calcium more efficiently. This vitamin also helps keep many of your body's other organs healthy, including your heart. In fact, vitamin D is so important for heart health that a vitamin D deficiency is now considered a heart attack risk factor.
Vitamin D helps keep the linings of your blood vessels healthy by triggering their cells to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide present in the cells helps prevent blood clots. The vitamin also combats the damage that free radicals can cause on the heart and circulatory system.
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when you expose your skin to the sun. Many Americans develop vitamin D deficiencies during the fall and winter when they don't spend as much time outdoors as they do during the summer. While some foods contain vitamin D, including salmon, canned tuna, and egg yolks, many people don't obtain enough vitamin D from food alone.
Ask your doctor for a vitamin D blood test to determine if you suffer from a vitamin D deficiency this season. Your doctor may advise you to take a vitamin D supplement to keep your body, including your heart, healthy if you do suffer from a deficiency.
2. Get a Flu Shot
A recent study revealed that a person is six times more likely to experience a heart attack when they have the flu than when they are not stricken with the virus.
The flu virus causes widespread inflammation in the body. This inflammation, combined with the drop in blood pressure and blood oxygen levels the flu causes in the human body, can lead to new blood clots developing in blood vessels. If a blood clot gets lodged in an artery supplying blood to your heart, a heart attack can occur.
Obtain the annual flu vaccine to reduce your influenza risk this year. This vaccine reduces your chance of contracting the flu by 40 to 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the vaccine does not prevent influenza completely, also take additional steps to avoid contracting the virus, such as washing your hands frequently.
3. Stay Warm
One heart attack risk factor you cannot control is the cold weather. Your blood vessels constrict in the cold weather, and this constriction increases your blood pressure. Your cholesterol levels can also rise during the winter season. All of these body changes increase your chance of suffering a heart attack when out in cold weather.
You can avoid an increase in your heart attack risk in the fall chill and winter frost by bundling up before you go outside when temperatures are low. Also, avoid performing strenuous activities outdoors when it is cold, as exercise places additional stress on your heart. This additional stress may be too much for your heart to handle when combined with the stress the cold weather places on it.
Follow these tips to protect your heart health this cold season, especially if you already suffer from heart disease. Contact the staff at Anderson Heart, PC to schedule heart health tests to determine your heart attack risk this fall and winter.