The way you take a shower determines your heart health in winter. Extremes of temperature differences between outdoors and indoors anyway stress out the heart. The cold causes the blood vessels to contract and pushes up blood pressure. Both cold and hot showers are additional shock factors that the body has trouble getting adjusted to and should be avoided. The ideal way is to go for the middle ground and go for lukewarm water. “This helps avoid sudden jabs that confuse the body and maintain the body’s temperature. In fact, lukewarm water raises the body temperature and promotes blood circulation,” says Dr Karun Behal, Senior Consultant, Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Mohali.
Why are cold showers risky in winter?
When we are hit by a blast of cold water in winter, our first response is to flinch and get goosebumps, move away from it. “Our body reacts as it would in an emergency situation and sends the blood circulation into an overdrive. Your heart starts pumping blood faster to protect your vital organs and constricts circulation near your skin. So, you end up shivering, which puts more pressure on the heart,” adds Dr Behal. For a long time, fitness geeks have used the cold shower argument to up metabolism, saying that the body’s heightened reaction to the cold water boosts the rate of metabolism, expending energy and burning additional calories. Some researchers have also claimed that taking icy showers may heighten your immune system and make you more resistant to illness. A clinical trial in the Netherlands found that cold showers led to a 29 per cent reduction in people calling off sick from work. But what many forget is that such trials involved people with fit bodies and no co-morbidities. “When you exert additional stress on your heart, it could lead to an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia and be a trigger for a larger cardiac event,” says Dr Behal.
Similarly, suddenly dunking into a hot water tub on a cold day could cause a rapid blood pressure drop, which again stresses out the heart. Which is why the best way to take a warm shower is to let your body time to adjust; first warm up the feet and body extremities. And once the body is primed, then go for a full bath. Also, towel up immediately so as not to let the cold shock the body again.
What should a person do to lower the risk of a heart attack in the winter season?
The major factors that cause the blood pressure to rise in winter include constriction of arteries, lesser exposure to sun, decreased physical activity leading to salt retention and blood clotting. “One should eat light meals, wear adequate woollen clothing, indulge in physical activity and exercise and take regular medication if any. Sometimes, patients with high BP require higher doses of medicine. Hence, one should seek immediate medical intervention and get the dosage revised from a physician or a cardiologist,” says Dr Behal.
Is it important to take extra precautions while working out in gyms during winters?
Nobody should opt for a gym routine without undergoing a stress test and should have at least a consistent physical activity graph to begin with. “We strongly advise people to do indoor physical exercises and abstain from venturing out in the hostile weather. Over-exerting oneself during physical exercises can exert undue pressure on the heart and can further worsen the condition. Moderate intensity physical activity is the need of the hour and should be monitored,” adds the cardiologist.
What tips should heart patients follow for winters?
“Consume home-cooked light meals, exercise regularly, keep a strict tab on blood pressure, shower with lukewarm water, have regular medication and manage stress by maintaining a positive frame of mind,” advises Dr Behal.
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Any diet which can be followed to keep the heart healthy during winters?
This is known to most. Get close to the Mediterranean diet as much as practicable with a larger helping of fruits and vegetables. “Have home-cooked light meals, low on spices and oil, and avoid consuming meals from outside. Avoid fried and high fat food as it can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases,” says he.
What should people infected with COVID do in winters?
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The COVID-19 pandemic has not only adversely affected peoples’ lives across the globe but had serious ramifications on health, particularly heart health. The long-term effects of the disease and other post-Covid complications are varied and are being regularly reported at health facilities. “People who were infected with Covid in the past should be extremely careful about their health and look out for any signs and symptoms. In case one’s body is behaving differently, seek medical help at the earliest as any delay can further compound the situation,” warns Dr Behal.
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