Heatwaves, Air Pollution, and the Deadly Risk to Heart Health

Study Warns of Doubled Risk of Fatal Heart Attacks

A study has found that high temperatures and air pollution can double the risk of suffering fatal heart attacks. Analyzing data from a Chinese province over five years, the research discovered a significant correlation between heart attack fatalities and extreme weather events and high levels of particulate matter in the air.

The study also revealed that deaths from heart attacks increase during extremely hot periods, especially among women and older adults. The risk of fatal heart attacks intensifies the longer an extreme weather event lasts.

These findings have troubling implications, considering the growing frequency and severity of heatwaves worldwide. The data could play a crucial role in advising citizens on how to prevent heart attack deaths during heatwaves.

Recommendations for High-Risk Individuals

The study recommends that individuals at high risk stay indoors and avoid polluted air during heatwaves. Strategies to mitigate negative health effects from extreme temperatures include following weather forecasts, staying inside when temperatures are extreme, using fans and air conditioners during hot weather, and dressing appropriately.

To reduce exposure to air pollution on days with high levels of fine particulate pollution, individuals are advised to use air purifiers indoors, wear masks outdoors, avoid busy highways when walking, and choose less strenuous outdoor activities. Public health warnings should consider fine particulate pollution when providing extreme temperature alerts to the public.

Data Analysis and Study Details

The study analyzed data from over 200,000 heart attack deaths in Jiangsu province, China, between 2015 and 2020. The majority of deaths occurred among older adults, with an average age of 77.6, and over half were 80 years or older. The study accounted for fine particulate matter exposure, evaluating the duration and severity of heatwaves and cold snaps.

Comparing to control days, the study found that the risk of fatal heart attacks increased by a fifth during two-day heatwaves, with the risk escalating with higher temperatures and longer duration. The risk was also higher during two-day cold snaps with lower temperatures and duration. Moreover, the risk of fatal heart attacks doubled during four-day heatwaves coupled with high levels of fine particulate pollution.

Implications and Further Research

The findings of this study have troubling implications, especially considering the increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves worldwide. The researchers estimate that up to 2.8 percent of heart attack deaths may be attributed to the combination of extreme temperatures and high pollution levels. Further research is necessary to confirm these findings and explore the interactive effects of extreme weather events and fine particulate pollution in areas with different temperature and pollution ranges.


Study Finds. (July 24, 2023). Heatwaves and air pollution form a deadly combo that doubles heart attack risk. studyfinds.org.

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