The research team said that as a preventive measure, the elderly with heart failure need to avoid fog and low cloud in winter.
‘Exposure to cold or high-pressure weather can trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients.’
In previous studies, it was found that the health of vulnerable people was affected due to changes in the weather. For example, heat waves and cold spells increased the disease and even became fatal in people who were from low-income neighborhoods.
In this study, how the changes in temperature and air pressure affected heart failure patients has been studied by the researchers at Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada.
Link between Heart failure and Changes in Temperature, Atmospheric Pressure
Prof. Pierre Gosselin, the lead author of the study from Universitié Laval in Canada, stated that doctors barely take the weather forecast into account when they are treating or making recommendations to heart failure patients.
Gosselin said, "So with the extreme differences in temperature due to climate change, we wanted to show how the weather is becoming a more relevant factor. Our study shows that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients."
It's becoming more and more expensive in treating heart failure patients, according to the Institut Canadien d'Information sur la Santé.
In Canada, about 78 percent of patients over 65 years of age have accounted for the most expensive hospitalization costs per diagnosis in the years 2011 and 2012.
Among these, the cost of heart failure ranked third and was estimated to be CAN$276 million.
In the new study, about 112,793 people who were 65 years and older were diagnosed with heart failure between 2001 and 2011 in Quebec.
Risk of Hospitalization Increases in Winter
Using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), patients with heart failure were identified in the Quebec Integrated Chronic Disease Surveillance System (QICDSS) database and were followed for an average of 635 days.
Meanwhile, the research team measured the mean temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, and air pollutants in the surrounding environment to see if there was an association with heart failure.
The results of this study showed that there was a higher risk of hospitalization or death in the winter period (October to April) of the year than in the summer period (May to September).
For every 1°C decrease in the mean temperature over seven days, the risk of hospitalization or death for heart failure was increased by 0.7 percent and for every increase of 1 kPa in atmospheric pressure increased the risk of heart failure incident by 4.5 percent.
In other words, the risk of being hospitalized or dying of heart failure increases with every drop of 10°C in the mean temperature over seven days. About 7 percent of people aged over 65 years were diagnosed with the disease.
During the follow-up, nearly 21,157 heart failure events occurred, representing 18.7 percent of the people. A total number of 18,309 people were hospitalized and of which 4,297 died. In some cases, hospitalization and death occurred on the same day.
The research team calculated and revealed that 0.03 percent of patients experience such an incident in a day. Over a 10-year period, it extends to about 1500 hospitalizations or deaths or 150 events for a year.
Preventive Measures for Heart Failure Patients
Prof. Gosselin and the research team suggested that elderly with heart failure need to give support and access to preventive measures, as heart failure management has become expensive for the society.
He commented: "Our study suggests that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients. This means that they should avoid exposure to fog and low cloud weather in winter as they often accompany high-pressure systems."
About Heart Failure
Heart failure (HF) is often referred to as congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood to maintain blood flow to meet the body's needs.
Heart failure (HF), the most common cause of hospitalization and is seen in people who are 65 years and over. The prevalence of HF increases with age.
A very close attention needs to be given to changes in symptoms, which can reduce the chances of visiting the hospital.
- AlainVanasse, et al. Effects of climate and fine particulate matter on hospitalizations and deaths for heart failure in elderly: A population-based cohort study. Environment International (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.06.001