TRUE OR FALSE. Does extreme cold increase the risk of heart attack?

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As during episodes of strong heat, the extreme cold exposes you to the risk of cardiovascular accident. This is all the more true for fragile people or during physical exertion. Explanations with a Toulouse cardiologist.

Going out in freezing temperatures – close to zero or negative – exposes you to a good cold, but we know less that it also increases the risk of heart attack.

“In cardiology, it’s a phenomenon that we know well!” Confirms Professor Didier Carrié, head of the cardiology department at the University Hospital Center (CHU) in Toulouse. “Extreme cold leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular events and myocardial infarction. It is observed in people at risk, having already suffered a heart attack or bypass surgery, prone to angina pectoris, or wearing a stent… But also in younger subjects without a cardiac history, and this is due to the combination of several factors”.

Walking in the cold is like running a 100 meters

“The cold causes vasoconstriction of the coronary arteries, which is called a spasm, and this can cause ruptures of atheroma plaques (plaques of fat deposited on the walls of the arteries). In the event of cracks and rupture of these plaques, a blood clot can form and clog the arteries.

Another effect of the cold is that it increases the heart rate. Walking in the cold would be like running a 100 meters! Thus, the risk of declaring a cardiovascular incident is two to three times higher in very cold weather for fragile profiles. As well as in younger subjects with no history, but smokers, under stress and very exposed.

During this period, the French Federation of Cardiology delivers very clear prevention advice. For people already under surveillance, it is necessary to be attentive to the slightest symptom of shortness of breath, chest pain or difficulty breathing, recalls the cardiologist who has observed twice as much activity as usual in his department for a few days.

Finally, it is obviously necessary to cover up very warmly, in particular the extremities, and the head for balding men, and to limit physical efforts such as running, which are as dangerous in extreme cold as in extreme heat!”

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