Time to read: 5 minutes
- Who's most vulnerable to the cold?
- Why does the cold affect circulation?
- What you can do about it
- The benefits of infrared technology for circulation and the cold
Time to read: 5 minutes
Cold weather presents a number of difficulties for circulatory condition sufferers, from discomfort all the way to life-threatening complications of pre-existing symptoms.
Most of us will experience minor effects of the cold on our circulation, including:
And the NHS (1) advises that more generally cold weather has a greater effect on:
As highlighted by the above, the cold does pose a significant increase in risk for those who have preexisting conditions – this includes but is not limited to conditions that may affect the heart, circulation, or connective tissue and muscles.
The British Heart Foundation (2) summarises:
“Cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm. Your blood vessels constrict so the heart can concentrate on pumping blood to your brain and other major organs.
The cold can also increase the risk of developing blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.”
When it’s cold outside the body focuses on supplying blood to your core where our most important organs are located, and this survival tactic can lead to your limbs and extremities feeling cold, stiff and unpleasantly numb. The cold also causes vasoconstriction in the body, so as to not lose too much body heat, but the impact of this is that blood flow becomes limited to the skin and extremities.
In winter and in colder areas of the world, the hypertension (high blood pressure) is more prevalent as the cold conditions can worsen the condition and trigger cardiovascular complications including strokes, heart failure or myocardial infarction (3). One explanation for this is that colder countries are simply exposed to colder conditions more frequently and the inhabitants are therefore more likely to experience the effects of the cold on their circulatory systems to a greater degree.
Winter is also the season with the highest mortality and morbidity rate from cardiovascular complications, due to the cold weather’s impact on the circulatory system (3).
Firstly, it can’t be overemphasised how important regular exercise is for persons with a chronic disease, and scientific evidence points to health-enhancing exercise as an indisputably efficient method of secondary prevention for cardiovascular diseases. When it comes to heart and circulatory health, proactively improving your cardiovascular health is crucial to preventing serious complications (3).
Sufferers of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure or similar conditions experience a well-documented worsening of chest pains and exercise tolerance in the winter months, and it’s entirely possible that exercise inflicts an additional strain on the heart and associated systems – so is exercising in the winter months still advisable? There’s not currently a wealth of resources on the topic, so it’s hard to know if exercising in the colder months is perfectly harmless or whether it would constitute an additional, unnecessary strain on your heart (4). It will differ from person-to-person but our advice would be to listen to your own body and if you feel like it’s too much to opt for less strenuous ways to keep active outdoors or indoors, but if you want to and you feel able – try to keep up your normal activity levels to stay healthy.
Some of the methods the BHF (2) recommends for minimising risk and discomfort in the colder months include layering up with clothing to keep warm, keeping your body supplied with hot and nourishing food so it has the energy to keep you warm, and staying indoors and mobile as much as possible to limit exposure to the cold.
It’s also recommended to not just stay warm, but to keep your body temperature steady. This means wrapping up to leave the house to avoid your temperature falling but also removing layers to prevent yourself from getting too warm at times. Overheating can cause your blood pressure to abruptly drop, which can be dangerous. (5) Dressing for your surroundings using effective layering garments is crucial to staying comfortable and healthy during the winter months, and staying at an optimal temperature is possibly the best way to counteract the effects of the changing and sometimes extreme temperatures on your body.
If you haven’t yet heard about infrared technology and clothing, we’re some of the biggest advocates for the use of infrared in the winter months. One huge advantage infrared clothing has over traditional insulating clothing is that it works to thermoregulate the body, not merely to trap heat. Boosting the body’s circulation will help your body to reach and stay at a comfortable temperature, and to avoid the effects of sudden drops and increases in temperature which can be a shock to the circulatory system.
Our research team here at KYMIRA formulated a specific blend of infrared textile technology, called KYnergy:
“In colder climates, our fabrics warm up quicker, and then store the thermal energy 63% longer than an equivalent weight fabric would. In hotter climates however, they dry 65% quicker on average, dissipating excess heat through evaporation. Tying these two effects together is the increase in circulation which allows your body to more efficiently transport heat around KYnergy® exposed areas, resulting in a regulating effect rather than just heating or cooling.” (8)
The main effects of infrared on the body include boosted circulation and pain relief, and through improving the body’s circulation the wearer will experience a reduction in discomfort typical of the winter months, namely numbness and stiff muscles and joints. Our infrared blend has been reported to improve mobility by 33%, and to reduce muscular stiffness by 25%. (6)
(3) Ikäheimo, Tiina M. “Cardiovascular diseases, cold exposure and exercise.” Temperature (Austin, Tex.) vol. 5,2 123-146. 1 Feb. 2018, doi:10.1080/23328940.2017.1414014 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6204981/)