The genes that control our immune system become more active during winter. This enables our body to fight with infections in a more powerful way. This genetic change becomes more significant in the countries where higher temperature changes between the seasons are experienced. A research, which was done on over 22 thousand genes, showed that this activity rate is increased almost in one fourth of the genes during winter. During the research, it was determined that when infected cells became active, the patient began experiencing discomfort. Major part of these patients was suffering from cardiovascular diseases. The specialists explain the things that the patients of cardiovascular diseases should beware in winter: Highlighting that winter triggers heart attacks, Cardiology Specialist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Alp Burak Çatakoğlu explains the ways to prevent heart attacks and reduce the risks: “Our bodies need more energy in cold weather. Our pulse and blood pressure tend to increase, increasing the pressure on heart. These factors trigger heart attacks in people who are prone to cardiovascular diseases by increasing the stress on their hearts. Since our mobility decreases in cold weather, we experience weight gain, an increase on our cholesterol levels, and changes on our hormone levels.”

Do not go outside without a hat and gloves
“You should begin your day slow. Blood pressure is usually higher in the mornings. If you begin your day slow and away from stress, your blood pressure and pulse adapt themselves much better to the hectic day ahead of you. Decreasing heat loss as you go out in cold weather is necessary. Head and hands are where the most heat loss occurs, so we protect them by using hats and gloves. Instead of wearing one thick layer of clothing, wearing a few thin layers of clothing would prevent heat loss effectively.”

Reduce smoking; get pneumonitis shot
“Smoking in cold weather is a dangerous act since it increases the rhythmic contraction of the heart veins. Quitting alcohol is also important for the hearth health. Our bodies tend to gain weight in winter, so watch your nutrition. Getting flu and pneumonitis shots for the people over the age of 65 and who are known to have cardiovascular diseases decreases the risk of heart attack. Getting flu increases the pressure on heart since these people are more sensitive.”

Heart diseases hit women the most
Heart attack is the major cause of death in Turkey and in the world. Thirty percent of women die because of heart attacks, and almost fifty percent of women die because of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiology Specialist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahmet Karabulut warns against the risk of heart attacks,which is the major cause of death in women over forty:

Above 40 is under risk
“Although, the risk increases in postmenopausal women more specifically, the risk still increases each year in premenopausal women. As the risk doubles in case of early menopause, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and stress are among the factors causing heart attacks at early ages. The harmful effects of smoking in women who use birth control pills increase specifically. Moreover, the death rate in women because of heart attacks is ten to twentypercent more compared to the death rate in men.”

Beware fatigue and back pain
“Cold weather causes the signals of hidden heart diseases in women come to surface more easily. Fifty percent increase is recorded in the number of heart attack cases in winter compared to summer. The rate is doubled in January compared to July. Especially in women, chest and back pain that don’t occur in summer but develop with exertion in winter, fatigue, tiredness, nausea, shortness of breath, and palpitation should bring up the concern of a heart disease.”

Losing weight is important
“Even five to ten percent weight loss would create positive effects on the heart. Waist circumference should be kept under 88 cm. A good night’s sleep for seven or eight hours also protects the heart health. Laughing reduces stress on heart by reducing the level of stress hormone. Thinking positive and self-confidence are beneficial for the heart health. Social activities, pleasant walks, yoga, Pilates, and similar activities reduce the level of stress on our hearts and bodies.”

Eat for your heart not for stomach

Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating fatty foods, and inactivity increase the risk of getting cardiovascular  diseases. Nutrition and Diet Specialist Müge Güzeytalks about how you can protect yourself against the cardiovascular diseases or better the course of disease with small changes in your life:

Reduce the consumption of saturated fats

“The goal of the people who suffer from cardiovascular diseases or who have the risk of getting one should be reducing the consumption of saturated fats, eating foods with omega-3 and omega-6 that are among the poly unsaturated fatty acids. Amount of butter intake should be limited; nonfat or semi-skimmed milk, yogurt, and cheese should be preferred; separate fat from red meat before cooking and don’t consume more than twice a week; stay away from specialtymeats.”

Consume fish and flax seeds
“EPA in fish, walnut, flax seed, and alpha-linolenic acid are among the omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming grilled or steamed fish 2-3 times a week, or 2 walnuts or 1 dessert spoon of flax seed a day is necessary to get enough omega-3. Amount of simple sugar intake should be reduced and processed fruit juices and sodas that contain sugar should not be consumed. Whole grain bread, bulgur, dried legumes are among the items of the must-consume list.”

Even 15 minutes of exercise is beneficial
“Aerobic activities such as bicycling, walking, swimming, and playing tennis increase the amount of oxygen intake, protecting the cardiovascular health. Exercising increases the level of HDL, lowers blood pressure, enables control of the body weight by using energy, balances blood sugar and insulin levels, helps to deal with stress. You should target for at least 150 minutes of medium intensity workouts weekly. Begin with 10-15 minutes of exercising and increase it to 30 minutes or more as your stamina increases in time.”