August 11, 2010

Cold Weather Could Increase Risk of Heart Attacks

Colder weather caused by global climate change could lead to more heart attacks than ever before, according to a new study published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), found that a 1 degree Celsius drop in temperature in a single 24 hour period is associated with an extra 200 heart attacks daily.

"Our study shows a convincing short term increase in risk of myocardial infarction associated with lower ambient temperature, predominantly operating in the two weeks after exposure," the researchers wrote in their paper.

"International studies with consistent methods will be required to clarify the dependence of these effects on local climate, whereas individual level studies collecting demographic, clinical, and behavioral data may shed light on the role of adaptive measures such as clothing and home heating, and further clarify which subgroups are likely to be the most vulnerable," they added.

According to a press release dated August 10, the experts looked at hospital admissions data for more than 84,000 heart attacks that occurred in England and Wales between 2003 and 2006, as well as daily temperature readings over the same period.

What they discovered was the risk for a heart attack increased by 2-percent for every degree that the temperature fell. Furthermore, they found that the effect was cumulative, meaning that sharp drops in temperature posed an even greater cardiovascular health risk.

"In the light of global climate change, the relations between weather and health are of increasing interest," Tuesday's press release also noted, confirming the link between the research and the worsening of extreme hot and cold temperatures attributed to global warming.

In a statement posted on her organization's official website, Senior Cardiac Nurse Ellen Mason of the British Heart Foundation said, "Although the increased risk is small, if there is a nationwide drop in average temperature it could equate to a significant number of heart attacks each day"¦ This timely piece of research reminds us that older people and anyone with heart disease should keep warm in their homes after the summer draws to a close."


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