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Storm ‘Barbara’: High health risk due to cold – How to prevent a heart attack


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Advice from the president of the Faculty of Medicine of the Greek Academy of Sciences, Professor of Cardiology, at the 3rd University Cardiology Clinic of the GNNTHA “SOTIRIA”, Gerasimos Siasso

Due to the imminent drop in temperature, special attention should be paid to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, people with chronic diseases, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

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According to the president of the EKPA School of Medicine, Professor of Cardiology, at the 3rd University Cardiology Clinic of the GNTHA “SOTIRIA”, Gerasimos Siassos, the human body shows great adaptability. However, when environmental conditions deviate from what is common for any population, adverse health effects may be observed.

Studies have shown that falling temperatures increase mortality from all causes as well as cardiovascular events. The increase in real estate can reach 7% for every 10°C drop in temperature.

Effects of cold on the cardiovascular

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Exposure to the cold and especially when combined with physical exertion increase cardiac work and can cause symptoms of cardiac ischemia such as chest pain, but even myocardial infarction. Also, in order to protect itself from the cold and reduce heat loss, the body causes vasospasm, resulting in an increase in vascular resistance, as well as blood pressure. This vasospasm, in addition to increasing the blood pressure with the adverse effects on the heart itself, can also “extend” to the vessels that supply blood to the heart, exacerbating pre-existing narrowings of the vessels in patients with cardiac problems.

There are also data showing an increase in coagulability in conditions of severe cold with an expected increase in thrombotic events that can occur, either as strokes or myocardial infarction, says Mr. Siassos.

What to do to protect yourself from the cold

According to the president of the EKPA School of Medicine, the primary means of prevention is to reduce exposure to the cold. We must minimize our movements, wear suitable clothes and when we need to move it should be done in the best possible conditions, with a reduction in travel time and with the least physical strain.

Patients with a known cardiac history should not neglect their treatment. Particular attention should be paid to medications taken for hypertension as treatment may need to be modified.

It is also important to have taken prophylactic measures to protect against respiratory infections (when recommended by our doctors), i.e. to have been vaccinated against the influenza virus, pneumococcus and against the disease COVID-19.

Alcohol consumption also does not protect against heat loss but may increase it by exacerbating the hemodynamic effects of cold on the cardiovascular system.

In any case where symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or discomfort appear for any reason, they should contact the doctor immediately.

As the effects of environmental changes on cardiovascular are significant, proper preparation, information and the implementation of protective behaviors are essential for both the healthy and those suffering from cardiovascular disease, concludes Mr. Siassos.


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