Cold weather causes spike in heart attacks: hospitals

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Jan 04, 2013 - Page 5

With a cold front hitting the nation during the New Year holiday earlier this week and bringing the temperature down to below 10°C in many parts of the country, sudden deaths due to low temperatures have risen.

According to Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei, the number of sudden deaths has quadrupled, from one case reported every two days on average to two cases a day. While most such cases involve senior citizens, one 36-year-old woman also fell victim, it said.

Chang Wen-han (張文瀚), director of the hospital’s department of emergency medicine, said low temperatures, especially dramatic changes in temperature within a day, are likely to trigger unstable blood pressure and heart attacks.

Chang Jui-yuan (鍾睿元), a physician at Cathay General Hospital’s department of emergency medicine, said that the number of cardiovascular patients at his hospital had doubled during the four-day New Year holiday, with most of them suffering heart attacks or strokes.

Wang Tsung-tao (王宗道), director of National Taiwan University Hospital’s department of cardiovascular medicine, said cold weather can cause blood vessels to shrink too quickly and lead to unstable blood pressure and, sometimes, fatalities.

He advised staying warm and wearing a surgical mask as well as a scarf or wool hat.

Patients with high blood pressure or diabetes, smokers and those under high stress are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases, he added.

One should rest when experiencing shortness of breath or pressure in the chest, Wang said, and keep warm when getting out of bed or going outside.