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Cold air can damage the heart's oxygen supply

Wednesday 29th February 2012
Source: Thinkstock
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With Britain experiencing a month-long cold snap between January and February many people with heart disease could have been in danger of worsening their condition.

As the temperatures plummeted all over the country the risk of a malfunctioning heart began to increase and those in locum cardiology work have now found that cold air can seriously damage a flailing heart. A team of researchers at Penn State University have revealed that if cold air is increasingly inhaled by a person with heart disease it can alter the amount of oxygen the muscle needs to function and can potentially worsen the person's condition.

The researchers found that when a healthy person exercises in cold weather it can cause uneven oxygen distribution through the heart but the body can normally adjust and re-direct the blood flow to cope with the problem accordingly. However, when a person has a condition such as heart disease it can restrict the amount of oxygen being absorbed by the heart, therefore causing a problem for the sufferer.

Strains of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease, are quite common in the UK and the British Heart Foundation found that in 2008 alone 579,677 people died from the condition. Whilst doctors and scientists have long been searching for a cure it still remains a major problem. The Penn State team found that there are more heart disease-related deaths in the winter as the muscle has to work harder in the colder temperatures and strenuous exercise such as shovelling snow can increase the chance of cardiac arrest.

Matthew D. Muller, of the university, said: "There are two different things going on here, demand and supply. We thought that oxygen demand in the heart would be higher with cold-air breathing and we also thought that oxygen supply would be a little bit impaired. And that's generally what we found."

Written by Megan SmithADNFCR-1780-ID-801306086-ADNFCR

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