Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the changing of the leaves, and the cool crisp weather. And I start to look forward to the fall and winter holidays.
But as we get older the coming cold weather can be a threat, too.
And it’s not just slipping on the ice or putting your back out shoveling snow that you need to worry about, according to researchers.
The cold air alone can literally send your risk for a heart attack climbing.
Heart attack risk RISES when temps FALL
In fact, the number of heart attacks per day rises significantly when the temperatures drop.
And a new 16-year study out of Sweden has revealed just how much that heart attack risk can skyrocket.
Researchers revealed the results of the study at the European Society of Cardiology Congress last month. The scientists found there were four more heart attacks a day when temperatures fell below 32, compared to when they were above 50.1
Which means if you live in the two dozen or so states which have winter temperatures that dip to 32 degrees or below, you too could be at a much higher risk.
Two hidden triggers for a higher heart attack risk
Experts say there are a couple of reasons why heart attack risk climbs so dramatically.
First, exposure to the cold causes your blood vessels to constrict. Your heart rate rises and your blood pressure climbs.
This is a perfectly natural reaction. And it helps your body regulate your temperature.
However if your heart isn’t in tip top shape, it could trigger a heart attack.
But that automatic rise in heart rate and blood pressure isn’t the only threat. During the winter colds, flu and pneumonia start spreading like wildfire. And respiratory tract infections can raise your heart attack risk too.
In fact, one University of Sydney study found that your heart attack risk jumps 17-fold following a major respiratory infection!2
Prepare your body for the coming winter
If you’re not a snowbird with a second home in Florida, but you ARE concerned about heart attacks with the coming cold weather, you don’t have to feel like a sitting duck.
Prepare for the cold months by boosting your vitamin D levels instead.
As you know, without enough sun exposure our vitamin D levels start to drop. Which is why many folks find themselves running low during the winter months.
Seniors are especially at risk for low D levels.
But raising your drooping D levels could help you fight off those heart-attack triggering colds and flu. In fact, one major study involving over 11,000 volunteers and 25 trials concluded that there is “definitive evidence that vitamin D really does protect against respiratory infections.”3
And the D benefits don’t end there. Vitamin D also naturally relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering your heart risk.4
During the warm months, you can naturally raise your D levels by spending 15 to 20 minutes a day outside in the sunshine without sunscreen. But the winter months require some extra efforts on your part. Start by eating more vitamin D rich foods. Besides dairy, you can get more D from sardines, salmon, mackerel, trout, eggs and pork. And then consider taking a supplement.
Most D recommendations are far too low, according to Healthier Talk contributor Dr. Allan Spreen. That’s why he typically recommends between 2,000 and 5,000 IUs of D3 daily, taken with a meal that contains fat to maximize its absorption.
Talk with your own doc about what dosage is right for you.
1. “Air temperature as an external trigger of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction – a SWEDEHEART nationwide observational study,” European Society of Cardiology Congress, Barcelona, Spain, 28 Aug 2017, Accessed 9/25/2017
2. “Triggering of acute myocardial infarction by respiratory infection,” Internal Medicine Journal, Volume 47, Issue 5, May 2017, Pages 522–529, Accessed 9/25/2017
3. “Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data,” BMJ, 2017; 356, Accessed 9/25/2017
4. “Vitamin D Is a Regulator of Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase and Arterial Stiffness in Mice,” Molecular Endocrinology 2014 28:1, 53-64, Accessed 9/25/2017