Mon, Dec 09, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Doctor warns of heart attack risk in winter

STAY WARM:A Taipei doctor said that as the temperatures continue to fall, some people have an increased risk for a heart attack, including smokers

By Wu Liang-yi and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A firefighter practices out-of-hospital cardiac arrest treatment during a drill in an undated photograph.

Photo copied by Wu Jen-chieh, Taipei Times

A Taipei doctor yesterday cautioned people, particularly smokers, to dress warmly in the winter months, citing a 30 percent increase in emergency-room visits for heart problems related to the cold.

In one case, a 43-year-old man was rushed to the emergency room after experiencing tightness in his chest and cold sweats while exercising in the evening, Taipei Medical University Hospital emergency services director Kao Wei-feng (高偉峰) said.

“He was quite lucky. In half the cases, the patient’s heart stops completely when they have their first heart attack,” Kao said.

Emergency personnel in Taipei and New Taipei City responded to 37 calls involving cardiac arrest on Friday and Saturday, with 29 of those cases ending in death, information from the cities’ fire departments showed.

The majority of the patients were older than 60.

While cold weather alone cannot be blamed for the heart attacks, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are particularly at risk when temperatures plummet, as it causes veins and arteries to constrict, the Taipei City Fire Department said.

Smokers and those who have the so-called “three highs” — high blood pressure, high blood lipids and high blood sugar — are also more at risk of having a heart attack when temperatures drop, Taipei City Hospital Renai Branch emergency services director Chien Li-chien (簡立建) said.

Not only the elderly are at risk, Chien said, adding that everyone should dress warmly before going outdoors in winter.

Taiwan Hypertension Society director Wang Tzung-dau (王宗道) said it is not uncommon to see up to a 50 percent increase in the number of patients treated for a heart attack or stroke in winter.

The reason smokers in particular are at greater risk is due to the way nicotine contracts the veins and arteries, further exacerbating the effects of cold weather, he said.

Taoyuan Chang Gung Memorial Hospital deputy director Huang Chi-jen (黃集仁) said cases of influenza also increase in winter, which could easily lead to heart problems in those with the “three highs.”

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