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Cooling weather strains hearts

Wednesday August 11th, 2010

A slight cooling of the weather can trigger dozens of heart attacks, researchers warned today.

People with heart disease face their biggest risk two days after a drop in temperature in Britain, according to a new analysis.

It is widely known that death rates from heart disease increase in extremely hot or cold conditions, but less work has been done on the short term effects of slight temperature changes.

Krishnan Bhaskaran and colleagues at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, analysed figures on 84,010 hospital admissions for heart attack in England and Wales.

They found that each one degree Celsius fall in temperature was associated with a two per cent increase in risk of heart attack over the following 28 days. Risk was highest at between two and seven days, and eight to 14 days. It was also higher for adults aged 75-84 and those with previous coronary heart disease, but lower for those taking aspirin.

Small rises in temperature had no detrimental effect. The study is published on the website of the British Medical Journal.

The researchers say that the risk among vulnerable people "might be reduced by the provision of targeted advice or other interventions, triggered by forecasts of lower temperature".

Writing in an editorial, Dr Paola Michelozzi of the Lazio Region Department of Epidemiology in Rome, Italy, states: "Cold exposure may trigger coronary disease in susceptible people through inflammatory and coagulation responses." Dr Michelozzi agrees that prevention strategies should target vulnerable subgroups of the population.

Ellen Mason of the British Heart Foundation added: "Although the increased risk is small, if there is a nationwide drop in average temperature it could equate to a significant number of heart attacks each day."

Bhaskaran, K. et al. Short term effects of temperature on risk of myocardial infarction in England and Wales: time series regression analysis of the Myocardial Ischaemia National Audit Project (MINAP) registry. The British Medical Journal, 2010;341:c3823.

Michelozzi, P. and De Sario, M. Temperature changes and the risk of cardiac events. The British Medical Journal, 2010;341:c3720.

Tags: Europe | General Health | Heart Health | UK News

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