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Major heart attacks found to be ‘more deadly during colder months’

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Heart attacks are more likely to kill you in the winter than in the summer, according to new study by UK researchers.

Cardiologists at Leeds General Infirmary compared information from 4,056 people who received treatment for a myocardial infarction in four separate years.

“We must do further research to find the cause of this difference and remedy it”

Arvin Krishnamurthy

They found the most severe heart attacks were more deadly in the coldest six months, compared to the warmest.

The overall number of heart attacks was roughly the same in the coldest half of the year, compared to the warmer months – around 52% between November and April.

But the risk of dying within 30 days of a severe heart attack was nearly 50% higher in the six coldest months, compared to the six warmest months – 28% versus 20%.

Dr Arvin Krishnamurthy, who led the research, said: “There is no physical reason why a heart attack, even the most severe, should be more deadly in winter than in summer.

“We must do further research to find the cause of this difference and remedy it,” he said. “The next step is to find out if this trend is seen nationwide.

“Potential explanations could include longer time to treatment, prolonged hospitalisation and delays to discharge, and increased prevalence of winter-associated infections,” he noted.

“Further studies interrogating the association between time of admission and outcomes, especially in the sickest and most vulnerable patients, are certainly warranted,” he added.

“We must urgently fund more research to continue to drive down the number of heart attacks”

Metin Avkiran

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, highlighted that was not possible to choose when a patient can a major heart attack.

However, he said it should not “have such an impact” on a patient’s chances of surviving.

“It’s vital we carry out more research to find out why there are these differences, as well as continuing to do all we can to stop people having heart attacks in the first place,” he said.

“Although we’ve made huge strides in the last 50 years, we must urgently fund more research to continue to drive down the number of heart attacks,” he added.

The findings from the study, which was part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, were presented today at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester.

 

Study data presented at the conference

Table 1: Baseline and procedural characteristics according to time of year.

 May-Octobern=1764November-Apriln=1939P

Age in years; median (IQR)

62 (20)

63 (19)

0.13

Male n (%)

883 (50.1)

885 (45.6)

<0.01

Out-of-hours n (%)

1018 (57.7)

1139 (58.7)

0.53

Call-to-balloon in minutes; median (IQR)

127 (59)

131 (63)

<0.01

Door-to-balloon in minutes; median (IQR)

49 (31)

51 (30)

0.04

Length of stay in days; median (IQR)

3 (1)

3 (1)

0.12

Anterior MI* n (%)

748 (42.4)

787 (40.6)

0.27

Cardiac arrest n (%)

168 (9.5)

186 (9.6)

0.96

Cardiogenic shock n (%)

71 (4.0)

99 (5.1)

0.14

Multivessel PCI †n (%)

157 (8.9)

167 (8.6)

0.77

Categorical variables are expressed in number (%), and continuous variables are expressed in median (IQR). *MI: Myocardial Infarction; PCI: Percutaneous coronary intervention.

 

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