Higher blood pressure in winter is harder to manage.

Higher blood pressure in winter is harder to manage.

The Impact of Weather on Blood Pressure: A Closer Look

Blood pressure increases during winter months

Image credit: Photography by Jelena Markovic/Stocksy United.

Introduction

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects approximately 1.28 billion adults worldwide. It is a condition where blood has difficulty circulating through the body, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other complications. Treatment options for hypertension include medications and lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet, exercise, and reducing salt intake.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is measured by the amount of pressure placed against the walls of the arteries as blood flows through them. It is represented by two numbers: the systolic blood pressure, which measures the maximum pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, and the diastolic blood pressure, which measures the lowest pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed. Normal blood pressure is considered to be a systolic measurement of less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic reading of less than 80 mm Hg. High blood pressure is defined as a systolic measurement of 130 mm Hg or more and a diastolic reading of 80 mm Hg or more.

The Impact of Weather on Blood Pressure

Research has shown that there is a seasonal variation in blood pressure, with levels tending to increase during the cold weather months and decrease during the warmer weather months. Dr. Yu-Ming Ni, a cardiologist and lipidologist, explains that vasoconstriction and vasodilation, the tightening and loosening of arteries, play a significant role in regulating blood pressure. When it is cold outside, the blood vessels constrict, leading to higher blood pressure. Conversely, when it is hot, the blood vessels dilate, which helps cool the body down.

A study conducted in February 2016 found that older adults living in cold homes had higher blood pressure, poorer biomarker values, and worse lung conditions. Another study in April 2021 discovered that increasing a room’s temperature by 10 degrees could significantly change systolic blood pressure.

The Study: Blood Pressure in Hot vs. Cold Temperatures

Researchers analyzed electronic health records of over 60,000 adults with high blood pressure, gathered between July 2018 and June 2023. The study participants had an average age of 62 years and were predominantly Caucasian and female. The findings revealed that, on average, systolic blood pressure rose by up to 1.7 mm Hg in the winter months compared to the summer months. Additionally, blood pressure control rates decreased by up to 5% during the colder weather.

Robert B. Barrett, the lead author of the study, explains that the study reaffirmed the existence of seasonal variation in blood pressure. However, the significant change in blood pressure control between winter and summer months came as a surprise. Barrett suggests that more physician monitoring and lifestyle interventions may be necessary during the colder months, especially for patients with blood pressure near the threshold of 140/90.

The Day-to-Day Importance of these Findings

Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, an interventional cardiologist, states that the large and varied participant pool in this study provides important insights for physicians. Accurate blood pressure measurements and medication adjustments during the winter months are crucial to ensure optimal blood pressure control. Dr. Chen suggests that public outreach and physician education on the effects of weather on blood pressure could help improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Yu-Ming Ni highlights the significance of this study, emphasizing the need for greater awareness of how everyday activities and exposures can impact health factors contributing to cardiovascular disease. Understanding the environmental factors that influence blood pressure is crucial for developing comprehensive strategies to manage and control hypertension.

In conclusion, weather conditions, particularly colder temperatures, have been found to impact blood pressure, with levels tending to increase during the winter months. This seasonal variation in blood pressure emphasizes the need for additional physician monitoring and treatment modifications for patients with hypertension. By understanding the impact of weather on blood pressure, healthcare professionals can provide more targeted care and support to ensure optimal blood pressure control throughout the year.