Winter's Connection to High Blood Pressure

A new study suggests cold weather raises blood pressure and makes it challenging to manage.

Research presented on September 9 at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2023 found that people experiencing winter high blood pressure may find it more difficult to control.

Using electronic health records, scientists examined the blood pressure readings of 60,676 people in the United States diagnosed with hypertension from 2018 to 2023. Throughout the study, the participants continued taking their high blood pressure medication as prescribed.

The scientists analyzed differences in blood pressure measurements and control of hypertension during the summer and winter months. The researchers defined blood pressure control as readings less than 140/90 mm Hg.

They found that the participant's systolic blood pressure increased by up to 1.7 mm Hg in the winter months compared to the summer months. Moreover, the team found that hypertension control rates declined by up to 5% during winter compared to summer.

In an American Heart Association news release, lead study author Robert B. Barrett, a software engineer at the American Medical Association in Greenville, South Carolina, said, "Despite the smaller degree of systolic blood pressure variation in comparison to previous studies on seasonality in blood pressure, we were surprised to observe a large degree of change in blood pressure control between winter and summer months."

In light of the study's findings, the authors say future research should investigate whether seasonal weather changes influence the frequency of heart disease and cardiovascular-related deaths.

"Individuals with hypertension or values near the range of hypertension may benefit from periodic blood pressure monitoring and improvements in physical activity and nutritional patterns during winter months to offset adverse effects from seasonal blood pressure changes," Barrett suggests.

How to lower blood pressure

Whether facing the brisk temperatures of winter or enduring the heat of summer, lowering blood pressure is critical for people with hypertension. To decrease blood pressure, a person can make lifestyle changes such as eating a well-balanced, low-salt diet, limiting alcohol, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight.

It's also important to refrain from smoking, manage stress, and take blood pressure medications as prescribed.

In addition, the American Heart Association recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet for people with high blood pressure. This diet plan is low in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, added sugar, and red meat. It also encourages more consumption of fruits and vegetables, fiber, whole grains, and minerals that may help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

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