New study, which was released on Monday in the journal Circulation, further solidifies the connection between environmental factors and the risk of cardiac mortality, according to experts who already hold that varying heat waves, cold spells, and polluted air are detrimental for the heart. The study, which is supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, is conducted against the backdrop of the protracted and oppressive record-breaking heat that has been suffocating the United States and Canada, as well as air pollution from industry and wildfires. Several studies by cardiologists in New Orleans, for example, found a dramatic jump in the number of heart attacks in the years following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke, is a severe condition that occurs when the body’s internal temperature rises to a dangerously high level, usually above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). It is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention. Heat stroke can be caused by various factors, including:
a. Prolonged Exposure to High Temperatures: Being exposed to hot weather for an extended period, especially in high humidity, can overwhelm the body’s cooling mechanisms.
b. Physical Exertion: Engaging in intense physical activities in hot weather without adequate hydration can increase the risk of heat stroke.
c. Dehydration: Insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration, which impairs the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating.
d. Certain Medications: Some medications, like diuretics and antihistamines, can hinder the body’s ability to cool down effectively.
e. Age and Health Conditions: The elderly, young children, and individuals with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or obesity, are more susceptible to heat stroke.
During heat stroke, the body’s cooling system breaks down, and the internal organs, including the brain, can be damaged. Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature, altered mental state (confusion, agitation, or loss of consciousness), rapid and shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, flushed skin, and absence of sweating. Immediate medical attention is vital to lower the body temperature and prevent serious complications.
Heat-Related Heart Attack
A heat-related heart attack, also known as a heat-induced myocardial infarction, occurs when the heart muscle is damaged due to the stress caused by extreme heat. The exact mechanisms behind heat-related heart attacks are not fully understood, but several factors can contribute to their occurrence:
a. Heat-Induced Stress: High temperatures and humidity can put significant stress on the cardiovascular system, especially in individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.
b. Dehydration: Dehydration can lead to reduced blood volume and thicker blood, making it harder for the heart to pump effectively.
c. Vasodilation: In response to heat, blood vessels in the skin dilate to release heat, which can lead to decreased blood flow to vital organs, including the heart.
d. Electrolyte Imbalance: Heat can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which are essential for heart function.
Individuals with existing heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure, are at higher risk of experiencing a heat-related heart attack. The symptoms of a heat-related heart attack are similar to a typical heart attack and may include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and sweating.
Prevention is key in avoiding heat stroke and heat-related heart attacks. It is essential to stay hydrated, avoid prolonged exposure to extreme heat, wear lightweight and breathable clothing, and take breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas during hot weather. If you suspect someone is experiencing heat stroke or a heat-related heart attack, seek immediate medical attention.
Recent events in Canada like forrest fires that are still active have heavily contributed to pollution and extreme heat. Extreme heat is at it’s peak and so is another factor that makes the situation even worse! High humidity! Have you experienced temperatures around 30 degrees celsius and all it takes for you to be exhausted and sweating like never before? Most likely is not the heat alone but the humidity that makes breathing difficult and living conditions miserable. Southern Canada and northern USA are hit every summer at hardest doe too many Great Lakes and continental climate. Very low amount of air movement combined with crowded cities and many lakes increase the risk of humidity. When turning on TV, Radios or by browsing the Internet you will notice many Heat Warning issued by the authorities. Something everyone should take very seriously as the consequences could be very serious or even fatal.
The time it takes for someone to experience a heart attack or heat stroke when working outdoors in high temperatures and high humidity can vary widely depending on several factors, including the individual’s health, physical condition, hydration level, clothing, and the specific weather conditions. Both heart attacks and heat strokes are serious medical emergencies that can be life-threatening, and immediate attention is crucial if someone experiences symptoms.
The time it takes for someone to experience a heart attack while working outdoors in high temperatures and humidity can vary significantly. Some individuals with underlying heart conditions may be more vulnerable and experience a heart attack more quickly, while others may have a higher tolerance to the conditions.
The symptoms of a heart attack may include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, pain in the arms, neck, jaw, or back, and nausea. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention if someone experiences these symptoms.
Precautions for Working Outdoors in High Temperatures and Humidity:
To reduce the risk of heat stroke, heart attacks, and other heat-related illnesses while working outdoors in hot and humid conditions, individuals should take the following precautions:
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration.
- Take Breaks: Schedule regular breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas to allow the body to cool down.
- Wear Appropriate Clothing: Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing to help regulate body temperature.
- Limit Strenuous Activities: Minimize strenuous physical activity during the hottest parts of the day.
- Use Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to protect the skin from sunburn, which can impair the body’s ability to cool itself.
- Know the Warning Signs: Be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and heart attack and seek immediate medical attention if they occur.
Overall, working outdoors in high temperatures and high humidity poses risks to health, and it is essential to take proactive measures to prevent heat-related illnesses and emergencies. If you or someone else experiences symptoms of heat stroke or a heart attack, do not delay seeking medical help.
Perhaps it helps to know that living in a busy city will increase the risk of high temperatures, high pollution and chance of getting health related issued due to excessive heat.
Visiting natural environment will reduce such risk, just keep in mind, high temperatures should be avoided at all cost as well as excessive physical activity during hot summer days.
Greater risk for elderly persons and women
In Jiangsu Province, a region with four distinct seasons, a wide range of temperatures, and high levels of fine particulate pollution, the researchers looked at the effects of extreme temperatures with and without high levels of pollution on 202,678 heart attack deaths that occurred between 2015 and 2020.
Particularly for women and older persons, those with an average age of around 77, they discovered that days with extreme heat, extreme cold, or high levels of fine particle matter air pollution were strongly related with the chance of mortality from a heart attack.
The biggest increases were on days when there was a lot of PM2.5 (Particulate Matter), which are tiny particles less than 2.5 microns in size (a human hair’s diameter ranges from 50 to 100 microns). indicating that the confluence of extremely high temperatures and high levels of fine particle pollution (more than 37.5 micrograms per cubic meter) was responsible for up to 2.8 percent of heart attack mortality. (A microgram is one millionth of a gram and a unit of mass.) Additionally, they discovered that whereas cold periods do not combine synergistically with the tiny particles, heat waves do.
These tiny particles, which are released when fuel is burned in industries, automobiles, and wildfire smoke, can irritate the lungs as well as the blood vessels around the heart when inhaled deeply into the lungs. Research has connected their exposure to dementia, heart disease, and stroke, among other health problems. The World Health Organization sets a limit of no more than 5 micrograms per cubic meter and no more than 15 micrograms per cubic meter for more than three to four days per year as the average yearly exposure to fine particle pollution.
Two-day heat waves with temperatures between 82.6 and 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit (28-37 degrees celsius) increased the chance of a fatal heart attack by 18%, while four-day heat waves with temperatures between 94.8 and 109.4 degrees increased the risk by 74%. Temperatures between 33.3 and 40.5 degrees Fahrenheit for two days increased the risk by 4%, and 27 to 37.2 degrees Fahrenheit for three days increased the risk by 12%.
The researchers calculated severe temperatures based on an area’s daily heat index, which tracks the combined impact of heat and humidity. They also assessed the duration and intensity of heat waves and cold snaps.
Information is the key when it comes to prevention of heart attack and heat stroke. Knowing the risks and knowing how to prevent those will benefit population tremendously.