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Nov 28, 2012

Heart-Related Deaths Increase in Winter, but Not Due to Cold Weather

Climate is not to blame for the increase in cardiovascular deaths in winter.

It’s well known that there are more heart-related deaths during the winter than any other season. We can see a clear spike in heart attacks, sudden cardiac death and mortality in winter months, and many chalk it up to the cold, bitter weather. However, a recent study may debunk this theory after showing that climate may not be to blame for increased heart-related deaths in the winter.

This study, presented at the 2012 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, analyzed data from 2005-2008 in states with three different climates. The states with hot winter climates included Texas, Georgia and Arizona. States with moderate winter climates included Los Angeles and Washington, and states with a cold winter climate included Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. After looking at death certificates from state health departments in each of these areas, researchers found that heart-related deaths are as much as 36% higher during the winter compared to summer across all seven states. However, mortality rates did not significantly differ across the hot, moderate and cold climates.

These findings suggest that something other than weather may be to blame for increased cardiovascular deaths in winter months. Experts speculate that people may be more sedentary in winter months or may go outside less, causing a decrease in vitamin-D levels. It’s also possible that the change in weather does cause blood vessels to constrict, increasing risk for cardiovascular related deaths. Either way, it’s important to promote better heart health throughout the winter months by exercising and eating well. Whatever the cause, there is still a clear increase in heart-related deaths in winter months and being extra vigilant with your health during this time could prove helpful.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why are there more heart-related deaths in the winter than summer?

  • It is still unknown why there are significantly more heart-related deaths in the winter compared to the summer. However, experts suggest that less physical activity, vitamin-D deficiency and the effect of weather on the blood vessels may play some role.
  • How can I reduce cardiovascular risk in the winter months?

  • There are many ways to help reduce cardiovascular risk in the winter, like by staying active, eating healthy and controlling any risk factors that you may have for heart disease.

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