Cold weather sends blood pressures soaring putting people at risk of stroke
The current cold weather spell is putting more people at risk of stroke as blood pressures increase as a result of the freezing temperatures. High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for stroke and research has shown that colder temperatures can be linked to increased blood pressure, especially in older people.
Although the exact reasons for raised blood pressure in the winter are undetermined, it is believed that cold weather can cause arteries to constrict and the blood to thicken, meaning that the blood has to be pumped harder in order to travel around the body. As the snow and freezing temperatures set in, the Stroke Association recommends that people should be taking extra precautions to stay warm and reduce their risk of stroke.
Dr Clare Walton from the Stroke Association offers the following advice for staying warm and healthy during the winter months:
- Eat well. Food is a vital source of warmth, so you should eat regular hot meals, which are low in saturated fat and salt
- Close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in the rooms used the most. The ideal room temperature is 18- 21°C
- Get your blood pressure checked and visit your GP or other health professional if your reading is high
- Keep moving if possible – it can lower your blood pressure and improves circulation
- Wear appropriate clothing. If you go outside put on a hat, scarf, gloves and warm footwear
The Stroke Association runs a number of Know Your Blood Pressure events across the UK throughout the year to encourage people to take control of their blood pressure and reduce their risk of stroke.
Rachel Seyler, Know Your Blood Pressure Co-ordinator at the Stroke Association says; “It is well known that colds and flu are more widespread in the winter, but there is a dangerous lack of awareness of the link between cold temperatures and stroke. High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke and it’s essential you know what yours is, especially at this time of year, when many people experience an increase in blood pressure. It is vital that people keep warm as the temperatures drop and follow advice about how to stay healthy and safe throughout the cold weather.”
About study into relationship between blood pressure and outdoor temperature: a large sample of elderly individuals
A large study from France showed that blood pressure in elderly people varies significantly with the seasons, with rates of high blood pressure readings rising from 23.8% in summer to 33.4% in winter. Blood pressure increases were seen in both the systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) numbers.
In the study, researchers analysed seasonal variation in blood pressure among 8,801 adults over the age of 65 in France over two years.
The results showed both systolic and diastolic blood pressures varied with the weather.
Overall, the average systolic blood pressure was 5 points higher in winter than in summer. But researchers say the temperature-related effects on high blood pressure were greatest among those 80 and older.
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A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. Around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are over one million people in UK living with the effects of stroke.
Source: The Stroke Association