The human body still remains a mystery, even after decades of attempts by the world’s leading experts to understand its inner workings. Of course, we know a lot about how it works, and even how to fix some things that go wrong, but overall we still have a very long way to go. And a lot to learn.
For example, we know that certain types of weather favor the development of certain afflictions, and even though in some cases it makes sense, other times medical experts really can’t be sure of why or how it happens. But it’s just a testament to our complexity as a species, not to mention our perseverance.
According to a new study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, winter raises heart failure and atrial fibrillation risk. It usually ends in hospitalization, but death is also more likely to come in the winter. Whether it’s because of the cold air, the stress of the holidays, or something else, winter tends to put the most people in hospitals with heart-related issues.
Seasonal differences in hospitalization rates have been noticed before, although never actually looked into, like is the case with this study. The sheer number of extra hospitalization related to heart issues urged the concerned researchers to perform the study and attempt to figure out what’s behind the whole thing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart failure is experienced by more than five million Americans every year, and atrial fibrillation by six million. Focusing on hospitalizations occurring between 2002 and 2012, due to heart failure, the team looked at the data of more than twelve million patients. A third of them also had atrial fibrillation.
The researchers determined that over a period of ten years, all of the participants were far more likely to be hospitalized for their heart afflictions during the winter or during colder seasons. In fact, the month that showed the smallest number of hospitalizations was July, while February saw the most people committed.
How and why
There are multiple theories as to why these seasonal changes in hospitalization rates may occur, but none can be confirmed due to the nature of the study. For starters, it could be caused by an increase in blood pressure attributed to the cooler air present in the winter.
Other explanations would be changing levels of naturally occurring hormones, shifting air pollution environments, changes in bodily fluid balance, or maybe by a rise in the risk of infection. It is yet unknown whether the cold itself contributes to putting people in the hospital or if it’s something else related to winter.
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