Researchers from Lund University in Sweden recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Cardiology, to determine the association between different weather conditions and the incidence of cardiac arrest.
To do so, they examined 3 million weather data points from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute and more than 275,000 heart attacks from the country's online cardiac registry. They looked at the data from 1998 to 2013.
After analyzing the information, they found that days with below-freezing temperatures, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below, had the highest incidence of heart attack. The rates of heart attacks declined when temperatures rose to about 37 degrees.
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The analysts also calculated that each temperature increase of 13 degrees Fahrenheit was linked to a 2.8 percent decrease in heart attack risk and that the association between snowy, windy weather and heart attacks was strong, particularly in the northernmost region.
“In this large, nationwide study, low air temperature, low atmospheric air pressure, high wind velocity, and shorter sunshine duration were associated with risk of myocardial infarction [heart attacks], with the most evident association observed for air temperature,” the authors wrote. “This study adds to knowledge on the role of weather as a potential trigger of myocardial infarction.”
The analysts said there are several physiological mechanisms that could explain the relationship between weather and cardiac arrest. They believe the cold temperatures can constrict the blood vessels in the heart, which they said could “induce plaque fracture.” They added “season-dependent behavioral patterns” like less physical activity, dietary changes and depression, may also contribute to higher occurrences of heart attacks during colder months.
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How can you lower your risk? The researchers recommended reducing cold exposure by staying inside and wearing warm clothes. To learn more about findings, take a look at the full report here.