MONTREAL – The number of heart attacks caused by heat has been on the rise for some years, warns German researchers in a recent edition of the European Heart Journal.
Scientists from Ludwig Maximilian University, Augsburg University Hospital and Nördlingen Hospital compared data compiled between 1987 and 2000 to data collected between 2001 and 2014. They found that the increase in average daily temperature has been accompanied by an increased risk of heart attack caused by heat; people with diabetes or high cholesterol were particularly at risk.
They see it as a consequence of global warming, but also the proliferation of risk factors that make the population more vulnerable to heat.
“I think the study is very interesting, but also very disturbing because it suggests that climate elements are changing and that we will have more events or more extreme temperatures that will lead to more cardiac events, responded cardiologist Peter Guerra from the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Montréal. The trend is clearly there and it is clearly worrying. ”
Several previous studies have shown a clear link between extreme weather events, including periods of extreme heat, and the incidence of mortality and hospitalization due to cardiovascular causes in general.
That does not mean that doctors understand exactly what’s going on. Exposure to heat is a stress on the heart and “maybe the answer to (heat) could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back” in some patients, said Professor Daniel Gagnon, of Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Université de Montréal.
“This is the question that is unresolved right now,” he admitted. We do not really know the mechanism behind that. When we are exposed to heat, one of the first responses of the body to dissipate heat is a relaxation of the blood vessels in the skin (…) But it causes some stress in the heart because there are a lot of blood that is sent (…) away from the internal organs, so the heart has to work harder to maintain a certain blood pressure. ”
Dr. Guerra points out that German researchers write in their study that access to air conditioning was rare in the city where they conducted their investigation.
“So, I’m thinking of our seniors centers, some of our hospitals that do not have air conditioning, that’s something we have to think about as a society, because we know that patients can be more at risk in these places, “he said.
Daniel Gagnon sees in their conclusions the reflection of a new reality.
“The heat is becoming more extreme, the population is aging and less and less healthy. Perhaps we should pay special attention to the demographic and environmental changes that are occurring, “he said.