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Cardiologist shares ways to keep blood pressure down during winter

Posted at 7:15 AM, Jan 03, 2024

If your New Year's resolution is getting healthier, here's more reason to stick with it. Research recently presented at a 2023 American Heart Association meeting looked at the health records of more than 60,000 adults in the United States.

Researchers found their systolic (top number on your reading) rates went up slightly - almost 2 millimeters - during winter when compared to summer.

"There's a lot of intuitive reasons why blood pressure goes up in the winter time and many of this is just based on the fact that we act differently during the holiday season," said Dr. Eric Secemsky, Director of Vascular Intervention in the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

"We tend to be more sedentary. We tend to eat differently including saltier foods and we may often drink more alcohol than we would normally outside of the holiday season."

Dr. Secemsky says there are other environmental aspects to consider.

"These are still exploratory but there is some data that suggests that cold weather can cause your blood vessels to constrict or clamp down. That's a normal response to keeping our body warm and that can drive blood pressure up."

"Similarly some hormones or messengers that our body sends out, can increase that cause us to hold onto salt and increase our blood pressure during these winter months, more often than the summer months."

That's why doctors stress staying active and watching what we eat and drink during the winter, especially salt and alcohol.

"Even small changes in our weight can cause reductions in blood pressure."

If blood pressure medication isn't helping, you can ask your doctor about the next steps. There are now therapies available for more consistent blood pressure control like renal denervation.

"It's a minimally invasive way of shutting down some overactive nerves in our body through the kidney arteries that can cause our blood pressure to increase."

"We really target people in particular who have hard to control, we call it resistant hypertension, who may be on multiple medications and still not meeting their goals."

"It's not dependent on you taking a pill or exercising or reducing your salt. It's always in the background, keeping your blood pressure controlled."

The FDA recently approved the use of one made by Medtronic, called Symplicity Spyral™ renal denervation (RDN)system, also known as the Symplicity™ blood pressure procedure.

Another is made by a Japanese company Otsuka's unit ReCor.