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Can abrupt temperature changes trigger heart attacks?

Researchers at the American College of Cardiology have found a link between fluctuating temperatures and cardiovascular health. Major temperature changes are associated with an increased number of heart attacks, according to the study.

Lead author Hedvig Andersson is a cardiology researcher at the University of Michigan.

“Global warming is expected to cause extreme weather events, which may, in turn, result in large day-to-day fluctuations in temperature,” said Andersson.

“Our study suggests that such fluctuations in outdoor temperature could potentially lead to an increased number of heart attacks and affect global cardiac health in the future.”

Previous studies on the health effects of extreme temperature changes have shown that outdoor temperature has a significant influence on the rate of heart attacks, with cold weather imposing the highest risk.

“While the body has effective systems for responding to changes in temperature, it might be that more rapid and extreme fluctuations create more stress on those systems, which could contribute to health problems,” said Andersson.

The investigation was focused on over 30,000 patients who had received coronary intervention treatments at 45 Michigan hospitals between 2010 and 2016. The researchers examined the daily temperature fluctuations that correlated with these heart attacks.

The study revealed that, for every nine-degree rise in temperature, the risk of a heart attack increased by around 5 percent.

In the summer, nearly twice as many heart attacks were predicted with a 63-degree shift between the highest and lowest daily temperature.

“Generally, we think of heart attack risk factors as those that apply to individual patients and we have, consequently, identified lifestyle changes or medications to modify them. Population-level risk factors need a similar approach,” said senior author Hitinder Gurm.

“Temperature fluctuations are common and [often] predictable. More research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms for how temperature fluctuations increase the risk of heart attacks, which would allow us to perhaps devise a successful prevention approach.”

The experts pointed out that sudden temperature changes are not necessarily the cause of more heart attacks, and that other factors may have contributed to the results of the study.

Dr. Gurm emphasized that it is still important to focus on cardiovascular risk factors that can be modified, such as smoking and high blood pressure.

The study is being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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