Extreme temperatures could increase heart deaths

Experts warn about dangers of climate change as study shows extreme temperatures increase heart-related deaths

(Image credit: Rex Features)

Experts warn about dangers of climate change as study shows extreme temperatures increase heart-related deaths

As extreme weather terrorises millions all over the world this week, experts are also warning us about the detrimental effect on our health posed by extreme temperatures.

Many more people could suffer from heart related problems as very cold and very warm weather puts a strain on their hearts.

A study in the British Medical Journal found that when the temperature dropped by just one degree Celsius in the UK, on a particular day, there were a further 200 heart attacks reported over the next month.

It is not entirely clear why the lower temperatures cause the sharp increase in heart attacks. Lab studies, however, have indicated that severe cooling could increase blood clotting, which could thicken the blood or increase blood pressure, leading to a possible heart attack.

Lead researcher Krishnan Bhaskaran, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who worked on the study, suggested that it was the elderly and those with heart disease that were at the highest risk.

‘As it gets colder, think about limiting the time outside,’ he advised. He also suggested that those more vulnerable should wear suitable clothing and keep their homes properly heated.

However, tests revealed that those who took aspirin were less at risk. This is most likely due to the blood thinning properties of the medicine.

Heat waves, too, have been blamed for increases in heart related deaths but for entirely different reasons.

Not only do extreme high temperatures dehydrate us, but the heat also forces the heart to work much harder to get the blood to the skin for sweating.

This was seen in Paris during the summer of 2003 when 11,000 people died in the first half of August as temperatures soared to over 40C.

Climate change is certainly going to have a progressively negative impact on our health.

‘We can’t control the weather,’ Bhaskaran said. ‘But we can control our response to it,’ he added.

Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, reminds elderly people and those with heart conditions to ‘keep warm in their homes after the summer draws to a close.’


Natalia Lubomirski
Natalia is a health journalist with 14 years experience in the publishing industry. She has worked for a number of well known magazines and websites including Marie Claire, Woman&Home, Top Sante, Boots and The Telegraph.  She likes to think she practices what she preaches when it comes to health and fitness. Her athletic prowess began early. A keen fencer for 13 years, she wielded an epée for Olympic Team GB during her teenage years. She likes to think she made sword-fighting cool before Game of Thrones came along! While working on her sporting performance with the team, she also participated in a lot of nutrition and psychology training, When it comes to time off, you’ll most likely find her up a mountain somewhere. It seems holidays have become a time for climbing several thousand feet, rather than chilling out. She’s now hiked eight of the major mountain ranges across four continents – including the Appalachians, the Smokies, the Sierra Nevadas (she spent her honeymoon hiking to the top of Half Dome), as well as hitting the summits of Snowdon, Pen-Y-Fan (Brecon Beacons), Table Mountain in South Africa, the Blue Mountains in Australia and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. She’s also passionate about all things health, particularly vaccinations, and will happily jump on her soap box at any given opportunity to talk about their benefits to anyone who will listen!