11/06/2012 11:07 am ET

Heart-Related Deaths Occur More Often In The Winter, Study Suggests

You're more likely to die from heart issues during the wintertime than any other season, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.

Plus, researchers found that it didn't matter what kind of climate you lived in -- heart-related death rates were about the same from Arizona, to Georgia, to Massachusetts. Heart-related deaths included heart attack, stroke, heart disease and heart failure.

"This was surprising because climate was thought to be the primary determinant of seasonal variation in death rates," study researcher Dr. Bryan Schwartz, M.D., said in a statement. Schwartz conducted the study with Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, but is now a cardiology fellow at the University of New Mexico.

The study included data from death certificates from 2005 to 2008, from Los Angeles, Calif.; Massachusetts; Pennsylvania; Texas; Arizona; Georgia and Washington state.

No matter the state, Schwartz and his colleagues found that the heart-related deaths rose between 26 and 36 percent, on average, between summer and winter over a four-year period.

Even though the researchers didn't find what caused this association, they speculated that it could have something to do with higher blood pressure or blood vessels being constricted in colder temperatures. Another possible explanation is that people may lead more sedentary lifestyles during the winter months.

And heart-related deaths aren't the only things that go up in the wintertime -- research has shown that cold and flu-like illnesses are also more common during the colder months. TIME pointed out that it isn't the temperature itself that causes people to fall ill; rather, it's that we spend more time cooped up indoors, which exposes us to more germs.



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