Winter can be a difficult time for many. Studies have shown a relationship between lowered temperatures and hypertension.. While cold seasons have shown an influence on children, adults and elderly, the influence on those with pre-existing hypertension is significant.1
It has been noticed that the most significant changes in blood pressure are observed during the morning, especially among the elderly. Variations seen in blood pressure due to cold weather can also be seen as a precursor to cardiovascular conditions.2
It is good to understand what the risks associated with hypertension in cold temperatures so as to understand how they can be managed.1
Risk factors of winter hypertension
Several possible factors connected with cold weather can contribute to increased hypertension.
Some of these include:1
- Temperature: The relationship between temperature and blood pressure is inverse – low temperatures cause blood pressure to increase and vice versa. While this is applicable to the population as a whole, it is of greater relevance among those with hypertension.
- Vitamin D: A correlation has been established between low or deficient vitamin D and hypertension. Further, there is a tendency for vitamin D levels to spike during the warmer months and drop during autumn and winter. The risk of hypertension and its worsening can be attributed to vitamin D deficiency.
- Hormones: Several hormones play a role in altering blood pressure. While studies have indicated that some hormones, including vasopressin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and aldosterone, can cause seasonal variations to blood pressure, only norepinephrine has been proven to raise blood pressure to a noticeable extent when the external temperature falls.
- Physical activity: In almost every case, it has been observed that physical activity is much higher in summer than in winter. The relation between physical activity and blood pressure has a strong, inverse relation. In fact, physical activity is among the main prerequisites to managing hypertension effectively. While the precise mechanism in which physical activity helps in managing blood pressure remains unknown, it is shown that absent or limited amounts of physical activity causes hypertension to worsen.
Managing hypertension in winter
Considering the relation between winter and hypertension, it would be good to know what can be done to manage and regulate the condition best during these months.
Here are some tips that can prove useful:1
- Keeping warm: This is important for the elderly in general, as well as those with hypertension. Some measures to implement this include monitoring indoor heating mechanisms and wearing warm clothing.
- Lifestyle changes: It is necessary to understand our body in relation to the weather and make changes accordingly. Improving our dietary habits and ensuring more physical exercise will help control hypertension to the best possible extent. The ideal way to make this happen is to see that levels of activity are at least at par with summer schedules.
Winter is a time to relax and participate in celebrations and festivities. Some intelligent choices and adaptations in your lifestyle can help ring in the cheer even better.
- Fares A. Winter hypertension: Potential mechanisms. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2013 Jun;7(2):210-219. doi: 10.12816/0006044.
- Kario K. Caution for winter morning surge in blood pressure. Hypertension. 2006;47:139-140. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.HYP.0000199162.89857.7a