Studies explain link between cold weather, hypertension and heart attacks.

If you noticed during winter that your blood pressure was up here’s why. A new study involving 15,964 people around 63 years of age who had had a heart attack, noted a 7 percent increase in heart attack risk for every 50 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature.

Researchers explained that colder weather stimulates the nervous system, which essentially causes more stress, leading to hypertension, and even heart attacks. In cold weather, people also tend to eat more and exercise less, which can also lead to higher cholesterol levels and a higher blood pressure.

Another potential explanation for the increased risk of coronary events in colder weather is “the stimulation of cold receptors in the skin and therefore the sympathetic nervous system, leading to a rise in levels of catecholamine — the small substances made by nerve tissue and the adrenal gland that play an important role in the body’s physiological response to stress. Moreover, increased platelet accumulation and blood thickness during cold exposure promotes clotting.

In other research, a review of 10 studies involving 107,090 people aged 35 to 80, also found that heart risk factors, including high blood pressure, cholesterol and waist circumference, seemed higher than average in winter.

According to U.S. nonprofit, Mayo Clinic, low temperatures cause the blood vessels to narrow, thereby increasing blood pressure as more pressure is needed to force blood through your narrowed veins and arteries.

Dr. Sheldon Sheps, emeritus professor of medicine and former chair of Mayo Clinic’s Nephrology and Hypertension Division, says that “in addition to cold weather, hypertension may also be affected by a sudden change in weather patterns, such as a weather front or a storm: “Your body — and blood vessels — may react to abrupt changes in humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloud cover or wind in much the same way it reacts to cold. These weather-related variations in blood pressure are more common in people age 65 and older.”

While temperatures are warming in the U.S., there are ways to keep your blood pressure down next winter. Officials say the best way to do that is to keep a daily log of your blood pressure readings, watch what you eat every day, and dress warmly.

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