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Winter Means More Cardiac Deaths—in all Climates

A healthy heart is always in season

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Whether you’re braving the snow drifts in Pennsylvania or the sand traps in Arizona, a new study has found that regardless of the climate you live in, you’re more likely to die of heart-related conditions in the winter.

Total deaths and deaths from circulatory causes were 26 percent to 36 percent higher in the winter versus the summer in seven different U.S. climates, researchers found. 

“This study has an important take-home message: Stay healthy year round,” says A. Marc Gillinov, MD, cardiac surgeon in Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute. “Don’t just plan to ‘get in shape’ for summer.”

Deaths from circulatory causes were defined as deaths caused by:

The study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012, analyzed death certificate data over four years from: Los Angeles County, Calif.; Texas; Arizona; Georgia; Washington; Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Although cardiac deaths were more common in the winter than in the summer in all of the climates studied, people who live in areas where it snows should take additional precautions. “If you have known coronary heart disease or you develop chest pain with exertion, avoid shoveling snow,” Dr. Gillinov says. “If you do shovel snow, dress in layers and make sure that you warm up and take frequent breaks from the work.”

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Tags: Dr. A. Marc Gillinov, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, prevention, research
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