From Maine to Maui, the results were the same, winter raises the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes. Cardiologists Bryan Schwartz of the University of New Mexico and Robert A. Kloner of the Heart Institute at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, teamed up and sorted through 1.7 million death certificates dated between 2005 and 2008 – looking for patterns.
What they found was surprising, both cold and tropical climates showed the same results, a 26 to 36 percent greater death rate for heart attacks in winter than summer. No one really knows why, but there are some theories:
- Influenza – when there are peaks in reports of flu there are also peaks in cardiac deaths
- Emotional Stress – holiday family gatherings can trigger stress reactions
- Darkness – the lack of sunlight alters a person’s body rhythms
- People tend to eat less healthy meals (fresh fruits and vegetables are less available) and exercise less
- People postpone going to the Doctor during the holidays
What do we take away from this study? Well, we know that heart disease is the number 1 killer of American women. We also know that women tend to overlook symptoms of heart attack. The Doctors at The Woman’s Clinic want you to KNOW and ACT – know the symptoms:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
The American Heart Association urges, if you have any of these signs, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.