People with heart problems are more at risk of dying if they are exposed to extreme weather conditions, latest research indicates.

Scientists from the American Heart Association have found that people living with heart failure can lose their life as a result of extreme hot or cold temperatures.

Additionally, individuals suffering from arrhythmia, stroke and ischemic heart disease are at an increased risk of death when exposed to hot and cold weather conditions.

First author Dr Barrak Alahmad said: “The decline in cardiovascular death rates since the 1960s is a huge public health success story as cardiologists identified and addressed individual risk factors such as tobacco, physical inactivity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and others. The current challenge now is the environment and what climate change might hold for us.”

During the study, the team of researchers examined the cardiovascular-related mortality data from the Multi-Country Multi-City (MCC) Collaborative Research Network and compared it with the number of deaths recorded on the hottest and coldest days of the year.

They found that for every 1,000 heart-related mortalities, 2.2 deaths resulted from extreme hot weather conditions. Meanwhile, 9.1 deaths occurred from extreme cold weather conditions.

Joint author Dr Haitham Khraishah said: “One in every 100 cardiovascular deaths may be attributed to extreme temperature days, and temperature effects were more pronounced when looking at heart failure deaths.

“While we do not know the reason, this may be explained by the progressive nature of heart failure as a disease, rendering patients susceptible to temperature effects.”

He added: “This is an important finding since one out of four people with heart failure are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, and only 20% of people with heart failure survive 10 years after diagnosis.”

Dr Alahmad said: “We need to be on top of emerging environmental exposures. I call upon the professional cardiology organisations to commission guidelines and scientific statements on the intersection of extreme temperatures and cardiovascular health.

“In such statements, we may provide more direction to healthcare professionals, as well as identify clinical data gaps and future priorities for research.”

Dr Robert A. Harrington, past president of the American Heart Association, said: “This study contributes important information to the ongoing societal discussions regarding the relationship between climate and human health.

“More work is needed to better define these relationships in a world facing climate changes across the globe in the years ahead, especially as to how those environmental changes might impact the world’s leading cause of death and disability, heart disease.”

The full set of results can now be accessed in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.

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