- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A recent study, regarding the belief that more heart attacks occur in the winter than other times of the year, has found that people are 25 percent more likely to have a heart attack in the winter.
The research, published in the American Heart Association journal, found that no matter what climate a person lives in, he or she is more likely to die of heart-related issues in the winter.
“This finding is making a lot of news because colder temperatures were thought to be the determining factor for the higher winter death rates,” Dr. Terence Bertele, chief cardiologist with Southern Maryland’s Chesapeake & Washington Heart Care, said in a Chesapeake & Washington Heart Care news release.
Researchers analyzed 2005 through 2008 death certificate data from seven U.S. locations with different climates, including Los Angeles County, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Washington, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
“In all areas, total winter heart attack deaths rose an average 26 percent to 36 percent from the summer low to the winter peak over four years,” the release said of the study’s results. “Seasonal patterns of cardiac deaths were very similar in the seven different climate patterns. Death rates at all sites clustered closely together and no one site was statistically different from any other site.”
Although the study shows cardiac rates are higher in the winter months, it “doesn’t shed light on the causes,” explained Dr. Thomas Haywood, a cardiologist with Chesapeake & Washington Heart Care, which has offices in Leonardtown and Waldorf.
Haywood, of Solomons, said one reason cardiac death rates may be higher in the winter is because people eat more, and what they’re eating is “less healthy.” Another reason could be that people don’t exercise as much in the winter, he said.
“People don’t live as healthy in the winter,” he said.
Viral infections, like the flu, which are common in the winter months, could also lead to the higher cardiac death rates, he explained, because the infections increase the chances of hospital admissions for heart attacks or heart failure.
Haywood said adjusting to a healthier diet and regular exercise, as well as “religious” handwashing and covering a cough, will all reduce a person’s risk during the winter months of having a heart attack, heart failure, cardiac disease or stroke.
In addition, he said people should be aware of the “common” factors for heart disease that “increase risk regardless of the season,” such as smoking, high cholesterol, an unhealthy weight and high blood sugar.