According to a recent Chinese study, extreme heat and air pollution can double the risk of deadly heart attacks. With global warming increasing the frequency of extreme heat events across the world, it’s crucial to understand the risks it presents to our heart.

Here, we explore the findings of the study, and how we can protect ourselves in extreme heat and air polluted areas.

Breaking down the findings of the recent study

Using data from 2015-2020 in the province of Jiangsu, China, researchers analysed 202,000 deaths caused by a heart attack. They discovered a significant association between days with extreme temperatures or high levels of fine particulate matter air pollution, and the risk of fatal heart attacks.

The findings, published in Circulation magazine, showed that women and older adults were particularly vulnerable. The combination of extreme heat and elevated levels of fine particulate matter also saw the most considerable increase in heart attack fatalities.

How does extreme heat and air pollution cause heart failure?

In terms of extreme heat, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood around the body so the skin can release the heat back into the air. While sweating helps to cool the skin down, it also leads to a loss of valuable minerals. To compensate for the loss, the body produces hormones that attempt to reduce the amount of minerals you lose. This again can put extra pressure on the heart.

With air pollution, the fine particles you breathe in travel through the bloodstream, potentially into the heart. This increases the risk of developing heart disease.

Protecting the heart from heat and air pollution

To keep your heart protected in extreme temperatures, it helps to stay informed of weather forecasts. Remain indoors and use fans and air conditioners in hot weather. You should also ensure you are dressing appropriately and keep yourself well hydrated. Installing window blinds and keeping them closed during peak temperatures, especially when in direct sunlight, can also lead to a cooler, more comfortable indoor environment.

As well as protecting the body from extreme heat, safeguarding against air pollution is crucial. When outdoors, try to avoid staying too long in heavy traffic areas where air pollution is typically higher. Wearing masks designed to filter out pollutants and staying vigilant about local air quality forecasts can also be beneficial. Also, consider using air purifiers with an HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter indoors to reduce pollutant levels.

Taking these preventive steps can make a big difference in protecting your heart under extreme environmental conditions.

If you have concerns about your heart health, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with leading cardiologist, Dr Konrad Grosser, for a comprehensive heart health check.