Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Global warming could mean more heart problems, doctors warn

International Herald Tribune: … Doctors warn that the warmer weather expected with climate change might also produce more heart problems… On the sidelines of the European Society of Cardiology's annual meeting in Vienna this week, some experts said that the issue deserved more attention. It's well-known that people have more heart problems when it's hot.

…The hardening of the heart's arteries is like rust developing on a car. "Rust develops much more quickly at warm temperatures, and so does atherosclerosis," said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University and program chair at the American Heart Association.

In higher temperatures, we sweat to get rid of heat. During that process, blood is sent to the skin where temperatures are cooler, which opens up the blood vessels. In turn, the heart rate rises and blood pressure drops. That combination can be dangerous for older people and those with weakened cardiovascular systems.

…Unlike modeling future disease outbreaks, where we know most of the risk factors that spread diseases, there are too many unknowns involved in connecting global warming and heart disease to make predictions about how many more people will have heart problems in the future.

…."A lot of cardiovascular risk could be avoided by targeting the urban heat effect," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a climate change expert at the World Health Organization. Though Campbell-Lendrum said that some European countries have put heat warning systems into place to alert people when they might be at particular risk, more needs to be done…

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