The Health Effects Of Cold Weather On Several Chronic Conditions

2012-12-13 |

As we approach the first day of winter, December 21st, in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us have been experiencing the effects of winter over the last month. The cooler temperatures are most often associated with cold season, but cold weather may also pose additional health problems for some people. This is especially true amongst those with some specific, chronic health conditions.

Who Is Most Affected By Cooler Temperatures?

Not surprisingly, those most likely to experience changes in health due to cooler weather are the elderly. Regardless of specific health conditions that the elderly may have, their bodies are simply not as resilient to the stresses caused by both cooler temperatures and any change in temperature. To a lesser degree, seniors are the next most likely to be affected by the arrival of cooler temperatures.

According to research from the University of Athens, even small drops in the outdoor temperature have an effect. Their research involving 15 cities around Europe found that a 1°C drop in temperature increased the number of deaths by 1.4%. The same research found that for those with specific conditions, the number of deaths was even higher. While such deaths represent the most extreme effect of cold, it is also important to consider the many people who will suffer poorer health from the colder temperatures.

Which Chronic Health Conditions Are Affected By Cold Temperatures?

The Effects Of Cold Weather On Those with Poor Heart Health

Among the most well known effects of cold weather on health is the effect on the heart. Colder temperatures lead to an increase in the number of heart attacks that occur. Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found a 2% increase in heart attack risk within the following month for each 1°C degree drop in temperature. This means that a 5°C drop is sufficient to increase an individual’s risk of heart attack by 10%.

Research from Penn State University completed this year has determined part of the reason why the risk for heart attacks increases during cold weather. The scientists found that when the air is cold, the heart must work harder to redistribute the oxygen in the blood. This places additional strain on the heart, which is not a problem for healthy individuals but is an issue for those whose heart is less healthy. This means that those with weaker hearts must take precautions to avoid the strain in cooler weather.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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