Cold Air May Raise Heart-Attack Risk During
FRIDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Breathing cold air during
certain physical activities, such as shoveling snow, increases the
body's demand for oxygen, which may put people with heart disease
at greater risk for cardiac arrest or death, a new study finds.
"This study can help us understand why cold air is such a trigger for coronary events," Lawrence Sinoway, director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine, said in a university news release. "If you are doing some type of isometric work and you're breathing cold air, your heart is doing more work -- it's consuming more oxygen."
The researchers used a hand-grip test (which involves
participants squeezing a handgrip, a move known to increase blood
pressure) to study the heart and lung function of healthy adults in
their 20s and 60s while exposed to cold and normal air
temperatures. The researchers found a discrepancy in supply and
demand in the participants' left ventricle -- the part of the heart
that receives oxygenated blood -- when cold air was introduced
during handgrip exercise. They noted that since the participants'
hearts were healthy, they were able to compensate for this change
and continue working properly.
People with heart disease, however, may not be able to keep up
with the increased demand for oxygen. The findings, recently
published in the
Journal of Applied Physiology and
The American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory
Physiology, could explain why fatal heart attacks peak during the winter.
Matthew Muller, postdoctoral fellow at Penn State's Heart and
Vascular Institute, said the results were in line with what they
expected. "We thought that oxygen demand in the heart would be
higher with cold-air breathing, and we also thought that oxygen
supply would be a little bit impaired," he said in the news
release. "And that's generally what we found."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides more
how the human heart works.
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