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By Avichai Scher
A new study confirms what a doctor has long claimed ̵
1; cold weather is a risk factor for heart attacks. But the risk does not end with the cold. Low atmospheric pressure and associated wind, rain and lack of sunshine also make heart attacks more likely.
The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Cardiology, looked at 3 million weather data points in the days corresponding to almost 275,000 hearts attacks in Sweden. It covered a 15-year period, from 1998 to 2013. The Swedish Heart, Sweden’s online cardial register and the government’s expert weather institute, Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, provided the extensive tasks.
Dr. David Erlinge, cardiologist at Sweden University of Lund and principal author of the study, said that this is the biggest study he is aware of if the weather impact has been affected.
“People have talked about weather and heart attacks for about 100 years,” he said. “With our robust data, we can distinguish many more factors than just the cold.”
The study showed that days with freezing temperatures (32 degrees Fahrenheit) had the highest incidence of myocardial infarction. As temperatures rose closer to 40 degrees, the heart attack fell. The north of the country, which has more snow and wind than in the south, generally had higher prices.
But a deeper look at data indicates that weather fluctuations may be the major factor. In the northern part of the country, the coldest region, heart attacks were not correlated with the temperature, but rather with the increase of wind and snow. Looking at the whole country, the information especially during the cold weather season, January to March, showed no meaningful association with increased myocardial infarction.
The findings indicate “an adaptation to long winters and low temperatures”, the study says.
Dr Craig Thompson, Head of Intervention Cardiology at NYU Langone Health, said it is generally likely that cold weather is a risk factor for myocardial infarction as it can tighten arteries. He was not surprised to hear the overall, colder weather was associated with myocardial infarction.
“It seems abnormal weather is the matter,” Thompson said. “Cold snaps when it’s hot and so on. When the weather changes hard, it overcomes the adaptation factor.”
He said he would like to see further studies in areas of several different climates, such as tropical places or places in USA with a greater number of weather than Sweden.
Other studies have shown that it may be people’s behavior in the cold that contributes to heart attacks, especially shoveling large amounts of snow when they do not usually engage in exhausting physical activity.
The average age of the people in the study was almost 72, and Erlinge said cold and bad weather is primarily a cause for concern for people who already risk a heart attack. They should be careful during colds by wearing warm clothes or staying indoors if needed, he said.
Lack of sunshine, not only cold, can increase the risk of myocardial infarction.
“Many elderly move to warm and sunny places in retirement,” he said. “Our study shows that it’s a good idea.”