- How do low temperatures affect high blood pressure?
- What is the proper diet for preventing high blood pressure?
- What is the connection between insufficient exposure to sunlight and high blood pressure?
During the cold months, weather changes can impact cases of cardiovascular problems, primarily high blood pressure. The abrupt transition from the warm days of September to the colder October and November affects the normal functioning of the heart.
Low temperatures lead to the contraction of blood vessels. As a result, the pumping function of the heart is hindered because it requires greater effort and force to pump blood into the arteries. This is how cold weather is often associated with an increase in blood pressure.
The issue is not solely dependent on whether people maintain high blood pressure throughout the year or have a family history of it. The stress on the body due to atmospheric changes can influence blood pressure even in entirely healthy individuals.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure (arterial hypertension) is a condition in which the blood pumped by the heart moves through the arteries at a higher pressure than normal. More precisely, it is considered high blood pressure when the upper limit is above 140 mmHg and the lower limit is above 90 mmHg.
Seasonality of the Condition
Hypertension shows a peak during the winter and a decrease in the summer. There are various explanations for the variations in blood pressure during different times of the year. However, it is known that seasonal variations in several risk factors play a role in the seasonality of hypertension. Examples of such factors include vitamin D and serum cholesterol, which will be discussed in more detail later in the article. On the other hand, many studies demonstrate the direct effect of environmental temperature and physical activity on blood pressure.
How to recognize the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension often remains asymptomatic for a long time and is frequently detected incidentally. Nevertheless, a common symptom of high blood pressure can manifest as headaches (especially in the back of the head), eye pain, and reduced performance.
To prevent the unpleasant surprise of an "arterial hypertension" diagnosis, we recommend daily blood pressure monitoring. This is why it's good to have a Sendo blood pressure monitor, either automatic or manual, which measures with high accuracy and ensures real values.
What are the possible risk factors during the autumn-winter season?
Research has shown that the highest recorded blood pressure is observed in low temperatures, while the lowest blood pressure is recorded in relatively high temperatures. During the cold autumn season, a potential mechanism for this condition is the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, with increased secretion of catecholamines in response to low temperatures. Catecholamines are hormones from the adrenal glands that accelerate heart rate and consequently raise blood pressure.
A significant difference in the serum levels of certain hormones is observed during the autumn and winter months due to the influence of cold on the body. As mentioned earlier, low temperatures lead to high levels of catecholamines. Other hormonal values affected by temperature changes are renin and vasopressin. The alteration in the normal secretion of these substances disrupts blood vessel dilation and leads to an increase in blood pressure.
The reduced daylight hours and, consequently, insufficient sunlight exposure in October and November lead to low levels of vitamin D. Several studies have demonstrated the connection between low levels of vitamin D in the body and high blood pressure.
Low temperatures during late autumn often lead us to stay indoors and prefer tasty, high-calorie foods over going for a walk in the cold. These conditions are a key reason for potentially higher cholesterol levels. Along with more frequent meals during the day, in the fall and winter, we tend to consume higher-calorie and high-fat foods. Consequently, not only does our weight increase, but the levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) rise as well. When LDL levels are elevated, it promotes the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries. As a result, blood flow is hindered, and the risk of cardiovascular issues increases.
What should we eat during the cold months to keep our hearts healthy?
We'll suggest several foods that, when incorporated into your diet, can improve your heart function and consequently reduce the risk of hypertension:
- Pomegranate: The seeds of this fruit are rich in antioxidants that suppress inflammatory processes and lower blood pressure values. In addition to consuming them freely, you can include them in your menu by adding them to salads.
- Beets: Beets are a source of betaine (an amino acid that benefits heart function) and folic acid (also known as vitamin B9). In October and November, you can easily obtain its beneficial components by drinking freshly squeezed beet juice.
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits contain potassium, fiber, folic acid, and B-group vitamins, all of which reduce the risk of heart diseases.
- Leafy greens (spinach, iceberg lettuce): Leafy greens are rich in folic acid, which can help relax blood vessels (vasodilation) and control blood pressure.
- Pumpkin: This vegetable is rich in potassium and carotenoids, which assist in controlling high blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular complications. Carotenoids have antioxidant properties that benefit our health. Pumpkin also contains fiber, which helps improve cholesterol levels and maintain a feeling of fullness. It's easy to prepare and can be consumed in soups or even healthy desserts.
As mentioned earlier, due to insufficient exposure to sunlight, most people in October and November, as well as during the winter, suffer from a deficiency of vitamin D. The consequences affect not only our blood pressure but also our immune system and bone health. To address this, it's advisable to take the recommended daily dose of vitamin D in the form of supplements. However, it's preferable to get a blood test to check the levels of vitamin D in your body before starting supplementation.
What should we limit consuming to manage hypertension?
Frequent salt intake above the recommended daily dose leads to tissue and functional disturbances in the body. Sodium accumulates in the bloodstream and causes more water to be retained in the blood vessels. The retained water leads to an increase in pressure in the blood vessels, ultimately resulting in hypertension. It's advisable to reduce the consumption of foods that contain high amounts of salt, including canned, frozen, and processed foods, chips, pickles, crackers, and others.
These foods contain a lot of saturated fats and salt, both of which are harmful to the body in the context of high blood pressure. Instead, you can opt for alternative cooking methods such as grilling, boiling, or sautéing.
Caffeine is found in coffee, black tea, and energy drinks. For people with high blood pressure, it is strongly recommended to either eliminate caffeine-containing beverages or significantly reduce their consumption. Some experts recommend consuming alternatives such as rye coffee or herbal tea.
Systemic alcohol abuse affects health and blood pressure. Given that during the autumn and winter months, people tend to stay indoors more and alcohol consumption tends to increase, it's important to know that alcohol not only impairs the pumping function of the heart but also harms the liver. Moderate consumption (one glass per day for women and two for men) would not lead to these consequences. However, in the long term, it is best to limit alcohol consumption as much as possible.
These drinks contain a lot of added sugars in various forms and are also enriched with carbon dioxide, which contributes to the negative effects of sugars. Frequent consumption of carbonated drinks is not only a risk factor for sustained high blood pressure but also leads to a range of other health problems, with the most common being bloating, elevated blood sugar, and dental issues.
Can exercise prevent high blood pressure?
The lack of physical activity and sports due to the tendency to stay indoors during the cold months has a negative effect on high blood pressure. We should not use the cold weather as an excuse to skip exercise or outdoor physical activities. It is recommended to engage in exercise at least 5 times a week for 30-40 minutes each time, either at home or by dressing warmly and taking a walk in a nearby park, for example.
How should we dress in cold weather?
Instead of wearing a single thick jacket, it's advisable to dress in layers. Layering forms an additional layer of air that acts as insulation and allows the body temperature to be maintained more effectively. If you wear only one thick jacket, your body can easily lose heat, your skin will cool down, and your blood pressure may increase.
It's important to know that the head is one of the areas that lose heat more easily. Therefore, don't forget to wear a hat when you go outside.
High blood pressure tends to thrive in cold temperatures. That's why it's essential to be well-informed about how to protect your heart during this time of the year. A healthy heart ensures a good quality of life. It's up to us to monitor its condition by measuring blood pressure daily and taking care of our bodies!