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Heart-related deaths rise in winter regardless of locale

November 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
You would think with year-round beautiful weather, Southern Californians would get through the winters quite well. But when it comes to health, a new study finds little difference between here and the East Coast.

Previous research suggests more people die in colder weather than in moderate climates.

"To our surprise, that's not what we found, and we found that the seasonal variation was exactly the same in the seven different locations with different climates," said Dr. Bryan Schwartz, a researcher at Good Samaritan Hospital and the study's author.

Researchers from the Heart Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital looked at death rates in cold places like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, to warmer areas like parts of Texas and Southern California.

In the study, presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions, experts found heart-related deaths rose 26 to 36 percent more in the winter, despite where you live.

"Our findings indicate that respiratory infection is actually more important than temperature is," said Schwartz. "We're not has healthy in the wintertime as we are in the summertime. Our diet is not as good. We don't exercise as much and we tend to gain weight."

Besides eating more calories and having fewer daylight hours to exercise, researchers point out there are other reasons why the winter can be more deadly, and a lot of it has to do with holiday stress.

"The stress involved in family gatherings. Financial stresses. And people also tend to delay seeking medical attention during the holidays. They want to wait until the family is always gone," said Schwartz.

So what can you do to make sure you fare the winter well?

Schwartz recommends you get a flu shot, monitor your stress level, don't overindulge during the holidays, exercise regularly and pay attention to how you're feeling.

"If you do feel symptoms, you should seek medical attention," said Schwartz.

The bottom line: Heed your health, no matter the time of year or the temperature.


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