A large study published in the ‘European Society of Cardiology’ reveals that the risk of heart disease is highest during the winter months. The study involved 107,090 people aged 35 – 80 years spanning 7 countries. Body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, lipids and glucose levels were measured and the data analysed, being adjusted for age, gender and smoking status. Results showed that compared to the annual average heart disease risk factors (blood pressure, waist circumference and cholesterol) were at their highest (50% increase) in the winter months, especially January and February, with waists expanding on average 1cm. On the contrary risk factors were lowest during the summer months of July and August.
New UK research has suggested that for every 1.8 degree Fahrenheit reduction in temperature on a single day was linked to 200 additional heart attacks. So what is it about winter that negatively affects our heart health?
According to some scientist lack of light may partially be to blame. Greek researchers found that people living at higher altitudes (closer to light/UVA) are less likely to die from heart disease. Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council wrote “Both the men and women living at 950 meters, where vitamin D-producing UVB light is much more intense, had significantly lower total and cardiac mortality than their lowland cousins. The lowland men were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack in spite of having lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol.” Vitamin D benefits the heart by increasing the body’s natural anti-inflammatory cytokines (secreted by cells of the immune system to affect other cells), suppressing vascular calcification and inhibiting the growth of vascular smooth muscle.
Other researchers believe it may simply be a change in peoples eating and activity habits. People are generally more active in the summer months as the weather is ideal for outdoor life, but come the winter months we tend to stay indoors and neglect exercise. Additionally December is the winter month of festive indulgence, which expands the waist circumference (a heart disease factor). In fact research has found that on average 2lb is put on over Christmas and never lost.
Prevention is quite simple;
- Eat a varied and balanced diet
- Be active
- Stop smoking
- Keep an eye on your cholesterol and sugar levels
The advice is simple but a lot of people do not follow the simple advice, despite all the warnings about the effects of smoking on their health they continue to smoke. High sugar levels often come from people drinking too many carbonated drinks; the zero level drinks still have other chemicals in them that can have adverse effects on the body.