Smartphone messages should be sent to high risk cardiovascular patients when adverse weather conditions are predicted, say researchers, who found heart attacks were more common during cold snaps.
The idea of sending warnings urging patients to be vigilant during cold weather has been backed by European experts and a specialist nurse from a major UK charity.
“Heart attacks increased dramatically when the temperature dropped below 15 degrees Celsius”
The new research, being presented today at the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology (APSC) Congress 2018, assessed the association between climate and heart attack occurrence in Taiwan.
The study, the largest ever carried out on the topic in Taiwan, used three databases covering the 2008 to 2011 to investigate the impact and interaction of weather on heart attack occurrence.
Overall, it included 40,524 heart attack patients and 919,203 adults without a history of myocardial infarction. Regional climate data was also obtained from the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau.
The researchers looked at whether patients were more likely to have experienced certain climate factors before their heart attack than the participants who did not have a heart attack.
“Health authorities should allocate more resources for treating heart attack victims during cold weather”
They found that lower temperature, temperature fluctuations, and stronger wind separately increased the risk of having a heart attack the following day.
When the lowest temperature of the day was between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius, the relative incidence of acute myocardial infarction rose by 0.45% with each one degree of temperature drop.
When the lowest temperature of the day was below 15 degrees Celsius, one degree of temperature drop was associated with a 1.6% of increase in the relative incidence of acute myocardial infarction.
Study author Dr Po-Jui Wu said: “We found that the number of acute myocardial infarctions fluctuated with the seasons, with more attacks occurring in winter compared to summer.
“Heart attacks increased dramatically when the temperature dropped below 15 degrees Celsius,” said Dr Wu, a cardiologist at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan.
“When the temperature drops, people at high risk of a heart attack should be put on alert for symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath,” said Dr Wu.
“At-risk groups include people who had a previous heart attack, the elderly, or those with risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles,” he said.
“Sending a text to these people during cold weather would be a simple and sensible approach”
Dr Wu suggested that healthcare systems should send smartphone messages to high risk patients when adverse weather conditions are predicted, to warn them to be extra vigilant.
Professor Ian Graham, prevention spokesman at the European Society of Cardiology, said: “Cold weather is an important environmental trigger for heart attack.
“Given that the risk is predictable, health authorities should allocate more resources for treating heart attack victims during cold weather,” he said.
“And people at risk of a heart attack should be more vigilant during cold weather and dial emergency at the first sign of symptoms,” he added.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The heart does not like extremes of temperature as it has to work harder.
“Sending a text to these people during cold weather, as a reminder to look after themselves and seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms, would be a simple and sensible approach,” she said.