This shower habit could cause heart attack in winter. Deets inside
Earlier last year, The Conversation reported that cold showers may negatively affect people with heart disease “as it could precipitate a heart attack or heart rhythm irregularities.”
Therefore, according to experts, exposure to sudden gushes of cold water can prove to be dangerous for those with heart disease.
Apparently, colder weather during winter can affect blood circulation and put extra stress on the heart.
Also, health experts inform that when it gets cold, the body adjusts to hold onto the core heat and stay warm.
But those people with a heart condition can find this adjustment harder.
Cold weather causes blood vessels to contract thereby pushing up blood pressure.
The shock one reportedly receives from cold water causes blood vessels in the skin to contract, which increases the resistance of blood flow inside the body leading to an increase in heart rate, which in turn makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.
As a result, the pressure inside the blood vessels can go up, informs a previous report in The Express.
Additionally, when the body is hit by a blast of cold water during cold weather, the first response of the body is to flinch and get goosebumps, while moving away from it.
“Our body reacts as it would in an emergency situation, and sends the blood circulation into overdrive. Your heart starts pumping blood faster to protect your vital organs and constricts circulation near your skin. So, you end up shivering, which puts more pressure on the heart,” informs Dr Karun Behal, Senior Consultant, Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Mohali, Punjab, India.
Therefore, the way you shower can determine your heart health in winter, as the extreme temperature differences between outdoors and indoors can put stress on your heart.
So, both cold and hot showers act as additional shock factors that are difficult for the body to adjust to, and should thus be avoided.
The ideal way to shower during winter is to opt for lukewarm water. “This helps avoid sudden jabs that confuse the body and maintain the body’s temperature. In fact, lukewarm water raises the body temperature and promotes blood circulation,” Dr Behal said.
The American Heart Association cites research that states “plunging into cold water during hot weather can cause heart attacks even in young, fit and healthy individuals.”
This discovery was made in a study published in the journal of Physiology that reportedly explained why the sudden submersion in cold water was harmful to the body.
“The body’s cold shock response speeds up the heart and causes hyperventilation, which can conflict with the diving response, which does the opposite and acts to conserve oxygen,” explains The American Heart Association.
The result of this is known as autonomic conflict, which reportedly triggers abnormal rhythms in the heart, and on occasion sudden death.
Therefore, experts are of the opinion that showering with cold water or entering cold water should be done with caution.
“When you exert additional stress on your heart, it could lead to an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia and be a trigger for a larger cardiac event,” Dr Behal told The Indian Express.
Similarly, suddenly submersing yourself in a hot tub of water when it is a cold day can cause a rapid drop in blood pressure – this again causes stress for the heart.
This is why the ideal way to take a warm shower is to give your body time to adjust. Start by first warming up your feet and body extremities and only then, wet yourself completely.
Also, ensure you dry yourself immediately so that the cold does not shock your body again.
Having said that, cold showers too can offer health benefits when taken cautiously.
In fact, some studies suggest that cold temperatures can have a boosting effect on the immune system.
In the most extensive study on the benefits of cold showers involving 3,000 participants residing in the Netherlands, it was found that those who took a daily cold shower were 29 per cent less likely to take time off work due to illness.
However, experts believe that many seem to forget that such trials involve those people with fit bodies and no co-morbidities.