Wednesday February 26, 2020

Heart attacks more common in winter

Every second person in the age group of 30 and above, who are already otherwise at risk, is prone to heart failure during winter, experts say

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representational image. pixabay

Think twice if you find alcohol the solution for keeping your body warm during winter. Medical experts caution that, apart from the common cold and cough, winter is also the time when more heart attacks occur. Every second person in the age group of 30 and above, who are already otherwise at risk, is prone to heart failure during winter, experts say.

They also say that one should not ignore irregular discomfort in chest, severe sweating, pain in the neck, arms, jaws and shoulders or shortness of breath during winter, which are major symptoms of heart failures.

Heart attacks are most likely to happen to old people in winters. Flickr

According to Vanita Arora, associate director and head of Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab and Arrhythmia Services in Max Hospital, “Everyone knows winter is the cold and flu season. But most people are unaware of the fact that it is also the prime season for heart attacks.”

She said during winter, the arteries become constricted with the fall in temperature, as a result of which the heart has to put in more effort to pump the blood. “This makes the heart stress out and it leads to a heart attack,” Arora told IANS, adding: “It is more risky for those who do not have any inkling about pre-existing heart conditions.”

Arora said that people above 30 should never indulge in overdoing anything and exhausting oneself in winter. She suggested that people, and especially diabetic patients, should avoid going for a walk in the morning on extremely chilly days and should shift their walks to the late afternoon when it is still sunny.

Arora said that too much alcohol intake during winter can cause atrial fibrillation, the most common irregular heartbeat problem called arrhythmia. In this, people tend to suffer from palpitations, fainting, chest pain or congestive heart failure.

Also Read: Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Often Misinterpreted

Heart experts said that a constant check on cardiovascular risk factors is one way to ensure that the winter season doesn’t harm one’s health. People should avoid overeating during winter and should rather eat in small quantities at regular intervals, experts suggest.

Neeraj Bhalla, senior consultant in cardiology at the B.L. Kapoor Memorial Hospital, said that as the blood’s viscosity increases with the drop in temperature, heart attacks and other coronary artery diseases increase during winter.

“Cholesterol levels fluctuate significantly with the change in season, which may leave people with
borderline high cholesterol with greater cardiovascular risk during the winter months. Apart from managing cholesterol levels, it is crucial that we keep small things in mind and do not stress the heart”, Bhalla said.

People staying in places where the seasons change very frequently are more prone to heart failures in comparison to those living in cold countries. Heart failure leads to most deaths in hypothermia – a condition in which the core temperature drops below the temperature for normal metabolism. Bhalla said to keep hypothermia at bay, it is advisable to cover yourself with layers of warm clothes. Besides this, it is advisable to take a bath only with warm water.

Alcohol should be avoided to keep body warm during winters.

Chandan Kedawat, senior consultant cardiology at the Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute, said: “In cold weather, the heart demands more oxygen because it is working harder.” Studies have shown that heart attacks and complications related to heart disease occur more frequently in the morning hours.

Research suggests that the early-morning rise in blood pressure or “a.m. surge” that occurs in most people may dramatically increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. “In the winter, people tend to exert themselves or do more work in the morning because it gets dark earlier,” Kedawat said.

“This shift of activities to morning hours adds to the normal circadian variation (cardiac variations that recur every 24 hours) in the mornings – further increasing the heart rate, blood pressure and the hormones that lower the threshold for a cardiovascular event,” he explained. He advises that the best way to prevent such situations for people above 30 is to go for an alternate day check up to the doctors. IANS

Next Story

Can AI Beat Humans In Identifying Disease Outbreak? Find it Out Here

Can AI Flag Disease Outbreaks Faster Than Humans? Not Quite

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Artificial Intelligence may not predict disease outbreak faster than humans. Pixabay

Did an artificial-intelligence (AI) system beat human doctors in warning the world of a severe coronavirus outbreak in China? Here’s a new science and technology news.

In a narrow sense, yes. But what the humans lacked in sheer speed, they more than made up in finesse.

Early warnings of disease outbreaks can help people and governments save lives. In the final days of 2019, an AI system in Boston sent out the first global alert about a new viral outbreak in China. But it took human intelligence to recognize the significance of the outbreak and then awaken response from the public health community.

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For now, AI-powered disease-alert systems can still resemble car alarms. Pixabay

What’s more, the mere mortals produced a similar alert only a half-hour behind the AI systems.

For now, AI-powered disease-alert systems can still resemble car alarms — easily triggered and sometimes ignored. A network of medical experts and sleuths must still do the hard work of sifting through rumors to piece together the fuller picture. It’s difficult to say what future AI systems, powered by ever larger datasets on outbreaks, may be able to accomplish.

The first public alert outside China about the novel coronavirus came on Dec. 30 from the automated HealthMap system at Boston Children’s Hospital. At 11:12 p.m. local time, HealthMap sent an alert about unidentified pneumonia cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The system, which scans online news and social media reports, ranked the alert’s seriousness as only 3 out of 5. It took days for HealthMap researchers to recognize its importance.

Four hours before the HealthMap notice, New York epidemiologist Marjorie Pollack had already started working on her own public alert, spurred by a growing sense of dread after reading a personal email she received that evening.

“This is being passed around the internet here,” wrote her contact, who linked to a post on the Chinese social media forum Pincong. The post discussed a Wuhan health agency notice and read in part: “Unexplained pneumonia???”

Pollack, deputy editor of the volunteer-led Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, known as ProMed, quickly mobilized a team to look into it. ProMed’s more detailed report went out about 30 minutes after the terse HealthMap alert.

Early warning systems that scan social media, online news articles and government reports for signs of infectious disease outbreaks help inform global agencies such as the World Health Organization — giving international experts a head start when local bureaucratic hurdles and language barriers might otherwise get in the way.

Some systems, including ProMed, rely on human expertise. Others are partly or completely automated.And rather than competing with one another, they are often complementary — HealthMap is intertwined with ProMed and helps run its online infrastructure.

“These tools can help hold feet to the fire for government agencies,” said John Brownstein, who runs the HealthMap system as chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It forces people to be more open.”

The last 48 hours of 2019 were a critical time for understanding the new virus and its significance. Earlier on Dec. 30, Wuhan Central Hospital doctor Li Wenliang warned his former classmates about the virus in a social media group — a move that led local authorities to summon him for questioning several hours later.

Li, who died Feb. 7 after contracting the virus, told The New York Times that it would have been better if officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier. “There should be more openness and transparency,” he said.

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Kyle Martin, a worker at HealthMap, a system using artificial intelligence to monitor global disease outbreaks, mines health data to keep the system up to date in a work area at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston. VOA

ProMed reports are often incorporated into other outbreak warning systems. including those run by the World Health Organization, the Canadian government and the Toronto startup BlueDot. WHO also pools data from HealthMap and other sources.

Computer systems that scan online reports for information about disease outbreaks rely on natural language processing, the same branch of artificial intelligence that helps answer questions posed to a search engine or digital voice assistant.

But the algorithms can only be as effective as the data they are scouring, said Nita Madhav, CEO of San Francisco-based disease monitoring firm Metabiota, which first notified its clients about the outbreak in early January.

Madhav said that inconsistency in how different agencies report medical data can stymie algorithms. The text-scanning programs extract keywords from online text, but may fumble when organizations variously report new virus cases, cumulative virus cases, or new cases in a given time interval. The potential for confusion means there’s almost always still a person involved in reviewing the data.

“There’s still a bit of human in the loop,” Madhav said.

Andrew Beam, a Harvard University epidemiologist, said that scanning online reports for key words can help reveal trends, but the accuracy depends on the quality of the data. He also notes that these techniques aren’t so novel.

“There is an art to intelligently scraping web sites,” Beam said. “But it’s also Google’s core technology since the 1990s.”

Google itself started its own Flu Trends service to detect outbreaks in 2008 by looking for patterns in search queries about flu symptoms. Experts criticized it for overestimating flu prevalence. Google shut down the website in 2015 and handed its technology to nonprofit organizations such as HealthMap to use Google data to build their own models.

Google is now working with Brownstein’s team on a similar web-based approach for tracking the geographical spread of tick-borne Lyme disease.

Scientists are also using big data to model possible routes of early disease transmission.

In early January, Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and researcher at Toronto General Hospital, analyzed commercial flight data with BlueDot founder Kamran Khan to see which cities outside mainland China were most connected to Wuhan.

Wuhan stopped outbound commercial air travel in late January — but not before an estimated 5 million people had fled the city, as the Wuhan mayor later told reporters.

“We showed that the highest volume of flights from Wuhan were to Thailand, Japan, and Hong Kong,” Bogoch said. “Lo and behold, a few days later we started to see cases pop up in these places.”

In 2016, the researchers used a similar approach to predict the spread of the Zika virus from Brazil to southern Florida.

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Now that many governments have launched aggressive measures to curb disease transmission, it’s harder to build algorithms to predict what’s next, Bogoch said.

Artificial intelligence systems depend on vast amounts of prior data to train computers how to interpret new facts. But there are no close parallels to the way China is enforcing quarantine zones that impact hundreds of millions of people. (VOA)