Here's How Hypertension Increases The Risk Of Stroke In Winter Season
Seasonal and temperature fluctuations can influence cerebrovascular risk factors such as hypertension, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and atrial fibrillation.
Lack of exercise can potentiate stroke risk by increasing high blood pressure
A 3% increased incidence of stroke risk is seen in winters and an 8% decrease in summers. The risk is significant for ischemic strokes rather than hemorrhagic strokes. Several factors can contribute to an increased risk of stroke during the winter months even though the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.
Seasonal and temperature fluctuations can influence cerebrovascular risk factors such as hypertension, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and atrial fibrillation. The activation of the sympathetic nervous system and renin-angiotensin system and their downstream signaling pathways (pro-inflammatory Ang II, activated platelets, and dysfunctional immune cells) are also major contributors. Influenza epidemics caused by cold weather are also significant factors that should not be overlooked.
Exposure to cold temperatures can cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure increases clotting tendency leading to stroke. Seasonal depression with changes in mood, behavior, and physiological factors which typically occurs during winter has been associated with an increased risk of stroke.
Winter is commonly associated with an increased incidence of respiratory infections like flu. These can trigger an inflammatory response and increase the risk of stroke.
• Reduced physical activity: Cold weather often discourages people from regular physical activity. Lack of exercise can potentiate stroke risk by increasing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
• Dietary changes: During the winter season, people may consume a diet that is higher in calories, unhealthy fats, and sodium due to the availability of comfort foods. This can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for stroke.
• Increased alcohol consumption: The winter season is often associated with increased alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and increase the chances of having a stroke.
• Dehydration: Cold weather can reduce our perception of thirst, leading to inadequate fluid intake. Dehydration can contribute to the formation of blood clots, a major cause of stroke.
To help prevent strokes during winter, it's important to focus on overall cardiovascular health and take specific precautions for the winter season. Here are some tips:
• Stay active: Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining cardiovascular health.
• Follow a healthy diet: Adopt a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Try to cut down your intake of foods that are processed, sugary foods, and high-sodium content. Reduce alcohol.
• Stay hydrated: Dehydration can contribute to stroke risk. Even though it's cold outside, drinking plenty of fluids is important. Opt for water, herbal tea, and warm soups to stay hydrated.
• Manage stress: Winter can sometimes bring increased stress levels. Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for strokes. Practice stress management techniques like Yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation.
• Control blood pressure: Cold temperatures can cause blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure. Monitor your blood pressure regularly and consult your healthcare provider if it's consistently high.
• Keep warm: Cold weather can increase the risk of blood clots. Dress in layers and wear warm clothing, including hats and gloves, to maintain body temperature.
Be regular on the medications that you have been prescribed.
(Dr. Rajesh B. Iyer, Consultant - Neurology, Manipal Hospital Millers Road)
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