Deaths from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) exhibit a winter peak and summer trough, both in countries of the northern and southern hemisphere. In England and Wales, the winter peak accounts for an additional 20,000 deaths per year. Globally an estimated 18 million people die from CVDs annually. A new paper published in JAMA Cardiology confirms that cold weather triggers more heart attacks while sub-zero temperatures increase a person’s risk of suffering the most serious type of heart attack by nearly 10 per cent.
Cold weather can trigger a heart attack, research suggests.
The life-threatening condition is more likely to occur on chilly, windy days when there is little sunshine, a study found today. And sub-zero temperatures increase a person’s risk of suffering the most serious type of heart attack by nearly 10 per cent, the research adds.
Icy weather is thought to cause blood vessels to narrow, restricting the heart’s oxygen supply, lead author Professor David Erlinge, from Lund University, said.
Colds and flu are also more common during the winter months, which have been shown to increase vulnerable people’s risk of a heart attack, he added.
The researchers analysed 16 years of weather and heart attack date from Swedish national registries between 1998 and 2013.
This included information on more than 274,000 people aged between 50 and 89.
‘Days with low air temperature and atmospheric pressure, high wind velocity and shorter periods of sunshine were associated with risk of heart attack,’ Professor Erlinge said.
‘The strongest association appeared to be for air temperature – with a higher risk of heart attack on days when air temperatures were less than 0°C (32°F).
‘Consistent results were observed after adjustment for long-term trends in heart attack and day of week.
‘After adjustment for air pollutant levels, only air temperature remained significantly associated with risk of heart attack.’
Results further suggest that when temperatures rose from 0°C to 3°C or 4°C, the rate of heart attacks fell.
The link between the deadly condition and the weather was most pronounced in STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction).
This is considered the most deadly type of heart attack and occurs when part of the cardiac muscle dies due to a blocked blood supply.
‘This translated into a 9.5 per cent reduction in STEMI for each 3.1°C increase in air temperature,’ Professor Erlinge said.
The study was published in JAMA Cardiology.