A new study published in the journal Circulation by the American Heart Association (AHA) indicates that certain groups of people may face a significantly higher risk of dying from a heart attack during heat waves and high levels of fine particulate pollution. The study focused on analyzing over 202,000 heart attacks that occurred in China’s Jiangsu province from 2015 to 2020.
Extreme Conditions and Cardiovascular Health
The researchers found that days with extreme heat, extreme cold, or elevated levels of fine particulate matter air pollution were associated with a higher risk of death from cardiac events. The study specifically looked at fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or fewer. Extreme temperature events, which are becoming more frequent and intense, pose a substantial public health challenge due to their impact on cardiovascular health.
Heat Waves and Pollution Synergy
The risk of death from heart attacks doubled during four-day heat waves with fine particulate pollution levels above 37.5 micrograms per cubic meter. Women and older adults faced the highest risk in these conditions. The average age of those who died from heart attacks was 77.6, with 52% of them being older than 80.
The “Perfect Storm” for Heart Health
Dr. Alexander Postalian, a cardiologist at The Texas Heart Institute, not involved in the study, pointed out that extreme heat puts stress on the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart failure. The combination of extreme heat and extreme pollution creates a “perfect storm” for cardiovascular stress and health risks.
Preventing Heart Attacks in Extreme Conditions
To reduce the risk of death from heart attacks, the study recommends avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures and fine particulate pollution. Strategies include following weather forecasts, staying indoors during extreme temperatures, using fans and air conditioners, dressing appropriately, staying hydrated, and using air purifiers indoors. When outdoors, wearing masks and avoiding busy highways can also reduce exposure to air pollution on days with high particulate levels.
Individuals with heart disease or cardiovascular problems should be cautious during extreme conditions, limiting outdoor activity and staying hydrated. Medication users should be aware that certain drugs, like diuretics, can increase the risk of dehydration and take necessary precautions.
By understanding the potential risks and adopting preventive measures, individuals can better protect their cardiovascular health during extreme weather events and periods of high pollution.