I was surprised to see this article in the International Herald Tribune suggest that global warming might cause increased incidence of cardiovascular death. In particular one statement struck me as being somewhat absurd.
On the sidelines of the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Vienna this week, some experts said that the issue deserved more attention. It’s well-known that people have more heart problems when it’s hot.
During the European heat wave in 2003, there were an estimated 35,000 deaths above expected levels in the first two weeks of August. In France alone, nearly 15,000 extra people died when temperatures soared. Experts say that much of that was due to heart problems in the elderly worsened by the extreme heat.
The hardening of the heart’s arteries is like rust developing on a car. “Rust develops much more quickly at warm temperatures, and so does atherosclerosis,” said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University and program chair at the American Heart Association.
In higher temperatures, we sweat to get rid of heat. During that process, blood is sent to the skin where temperatures are cooler, which opens up the blood vessels. In turn, the heart rate rises and blood pressure drops. That combination can be dangerous for older people and those with weakened cardiovascular systems.
That’s interesting. It makes you wonder why all those old people move to Florida if increased heat is actually dangerous for older people. There are problems with this report, and while increased temperatures do cause some cardiovascular problems, they decrease others, and the picture is more complicated than this article would suggest.
Continue reading “Will Global Warming Increase Heart Disease?”