Stroke – A Bigger Threat in the Cold?

Strokes are a widespread and extremely serious problem in the United States. In fact, in 2016 it was the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Strokes can be attributed to a number of factors, such as smoking or the presence of heart disease. A 2014 report suggests that cold temperatures might also impact stroke risk. 

Winter Worries 

This research can be credited to Yale University, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the United States. The Yale team cast a wide net for their project, examining roughly 157,000 stroke victims from the years 2009 and 2010. 

Upon combing through this data, the authors noticed a possible correlation between stroke risk and temperatures. Specifically, it was determined that the overall risk of stroke hospitalization dipped by 2.3% for each 5 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase. Likewise, the same temperature increase was found to cut in-hospital mortality rates by over 4 percent.

So what could explain this possible connection? One possible explanation is that the body’s blood vessels tighten during cold weather spells, thus making it harder for the heart to get blood to the brain. Alternatively, certain illnesses are become more prominent during the winter months, a pattern which could make stroke more likely. 

The Yale team’s work was featured at the American Stroke Association’s (ASA) International Stroke Conference, held in the city of San Diego. In an interview with the website Live Science, study contributor Judith Lichtman noted that “our bodies are responsive to our environments; with greater fluctuations, it could put greater stress on individuals, particularly those who are older.”

Preventative Measures

For now, those concerned about risk of stroke can take the following precautions:

  • Shed extra weight
  • Reduce consumption of alcoholic products
  • Reduce consumption of salty foods and junk food
  • Exercise on a regular basis

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