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Deaths from heart conditions increase during the winter regardless of temperature

November 9, 2012

Winter poses a number of health risks for older adults, but new research suggests cold weather may not be the only cause. A new study published by the American Heart Association found that deaths from heart-related issues tend to spike during the winter months regardless of the climate.

The research, which was presented at the association's Scientific Sessions, relied on the death certificates issued in several different states, including California, Texas and Massachusetts. Scientists noticed that there was between a 26 and 36 percent increase in the number of deaths due to cardiovascular issues during the winter.

"This was surprising because climate was thought to be the primary determinant of seasonal variation in death rates," said Dr. Bryan Schwartz, the study's lead author.

Experts say there could be a number of reasons for the increase, but many attribute the correlation to the fact that people are less likely to follow a healthy lifestyle for seniors once the calendar flips to December 21. For instance, seniors tend to exercise less during the winter, and the fewer hours of daylight can trigger feelings of depression, which is bad for overall health as well.

There are a number of ways for seniors, even those who live in colder climates, to stay physically active as they enter the colder months. One of the easiest paths is to join a gym or fitness center, which is especially helpful given that many retirement communities across the country have added such amenities to appeal to today's active senior.