World Environment Day 2024: Understanding the Link Between Heat Waves and Heart Health Risks

Heatwaves are becoming increasingly frequent and severe due to climate change, significantly endangering human health. These extreme weather conditions heighten the risk of cardiovascular diseases, a primary cause of mortality globally.

World Environment Day, observed annually on June 5, aims to raise awareness about climate change and its impact on human health, wildlife, and plant life. This year’s theme is “Land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience.” In recognition of this day, experts highlighted how rising temperatures contribute to a higher incidence of heart disease and related fatalities.

Research indicates that with each degree Celsius increase in temperature, the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases rises. Between 2000 and 2019, there were approximately 489,000 heat-related deaths globally, with Asia accounting for 45% of these fatalities.

Heat-related illnesses and fatalities in India
Recent data from the Health Ministry of India reported 605 deaths due to various cardiovascular diseases in May this year. During the same month, at least 80 deaths from heat strokes were recorded, including both confirmed and suspected cases. From March to May, there were 56 confirmed heat stroke deaths, with 46 occurring in May alone.

How heatwaves heighten the risk of cardiovascular diseases
“The human body regulates its internal temperature through sweating and increased blood flow to the skin. However, extreme heat can overwhelm this system. As the body tries to cool down, the heart works harder to pump blood, increasing strain and blood pressure,” explained Dr. RR Dutta, HOPD, Internal Medicine, Paras Health, Gurugram.

“This added stress can lead to a range of adverse effects, from dizziness and nausea to severe complications such as heart attacks, strokes, and even sudden death,” he added.

Dr. Dutta noted that vulnerable communities bear the brunt of these heat-related cardiovascular risks. Elderly individuals, those with pre-existing heart conditions, and low-income populations are particularly at risk. Limited access to air conditioning, insufficient hydration due to economic hardships, and social isolation exacerbate the dangers for these groups, resulting in higher rates of heat-related illnesses and deaths.

Dr. Dutta emphasized the importance of developing sustainable and heat-resistant infrastructure for long-term protection.

A study by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bhubaneswar found that urbanization is responsible for 60% of the warming trend in Indian cities. Despite occupying only about 1% of the land, cities house over half of the world’s population, according to findings published in Nature Journal.

“Heatwaves are primarily driven by climate change and disruptions in weather patterns,” said Hisham Mundol, Chief Advisor, Environmental Defense Fund, India.

Additionally, the urban heat island effect, characterized by reduced vegetation, increased concretization, and higher temperatures in urban areas, further amplifies the risk. Mundol stressed that mitigation is both necessary and feasible, requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in forest cover.

Dr. Dutta advised maintaining proper hydration, staying indoors during peak heat hours, and wearing loose, breathable clothing. As heatwaves are expected to become more frequent and intense in the future, individuals must take necessary precautions, such as staying hydrated, avoiding prolonged heat exposure, and closely monitoring their health during these extreme weather events.

Times Tech Pharma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *