Dropping temperatures and changes in atmospheric pressure can lead to an increase in the risk of heart failure for elderly people, according to a large-scale study – and more care needs to be taken to counter the effects.
The researchers are advising elderly people with a higher chance of heart failure to avoid fog and low cloud in the winter months, and are also asking doctors to keep an eye on the weather as well as the condition of their patients.
According to the team from Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, being more aware of the link between cold weather and heart failure could help save lives and reduce the high costs of treating these cardiovascular problems in hospitals.
“Our study shows that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalisation or death in heart failure patients,” says one of the team, Pierre Gosselin, from Universitié Laval.
“We know that doctors rarely take the weather forecast into account when treating or making recommendations to heart failure patients. So with the extreme differences in temperature due to climate change, we wanted to show how the weather is becoming a more relevant factor.”
The researchers looked at 112,793 people, aged 65 years and above, diagnosed with heart failure in Quebec between 2001 and 2011 (via the Quebec Integrated Chronic Disease Surveillance System or QICDSS database).
Across an average of 635 days, study participants were monitored while readings for temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and air pollutants were also measured. The data revealed a higher risk of hospitalisation or death in the winter (October to April) compared to the summer (May to September).
On average, a death or hospital visit due to heart failure was 0.7 percent more likely for every 1°C (1.8°F) decrease in temperature over the previous week. The risk also increased by 4.5 percent for each increase of 1 kPa in atmospheric pressure.
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