Temperature Changes Tied to Deaths From Heart Problems

Cardiovascular death rate increases linked to temperature changes in heat and cold in Bavarian study

(RxWiki News) Heat waves or blasts of cold may be uncomfortable or inconvenient, but results from a new study suggest they could even be dangerous to your health.

The study, which focused on Bavaria, a region in southern Germany, looked at short-term effects weather changes may have on heart health.

The study found that more extreme changes in heat or cold were tied to increases in daily death rates from heart problems.

"During bad weather, find ways to stay active indoors."

This new study, which was led by Susanne Breitner, PhD, of the German Research Center for Environmental Health in Neuherberg, Germany, aimed to explore a potential connection between air temperature and deaths from cardiovascular problems, including heart failure, stroke and irregular heart beat.

To do so, Dr. Breitner and team analyzed data from the Bavarian State Office and German Weather Service that considered a number of different factors, including average daily temperatures and daily counts for cardiovascular deaths. The data drew from several locations in Bavaria between 1990 and 2006, including the large cities of Munich and Nuremberg and several rural districts in the region.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that an increase in the average temperature for a two-day period from 20 degrees Celsius (°C) to 24.8°C was tied to a 10 percent increase in the number of cardiovascular deaths. In degrees Fahrenheit (°F), this would be a change from about 68°F to 76.64°F.

Dr. Breitner and team also found that a decrease in average temperature for a 15-day period from −1.0°C to −7.5°C was associated with an 8 percent increase in the number of cardiovascular deaths. This temperature change would be equivalent to a change from about 30.2°F to 18.5°F.

The effect of the weather on death rates was strongest in elderly adults older than 75.

"These findings may guide planning public health interventions to control and prevent the health effects of exposure to air temperature, especially persons susceptible to heart failure, arrhythmia or [brain and artery-related] mortality," Dr. Breitner and team wrote.

Further research among more geographically diverse areas is needed to confirm these findings and further understand the potential relationship between weather and heart issues, the study authors noted.

The study was published in the journal Heart June 6, ahead of print publication. The Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Public Health provided funding for the research. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
July 29, 2014