Could climate-change lead to an increase in cardiovascular-related deaths?

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Climate change-induced extreme heat is projected to lead to a significant increase in cardiovascular-related deaths in the United States by midcentury, according to a study.

The study indicates that individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions are at particularly high risk, and the impact will be disproportionately felt by elderly and non-Hispanic Black adults.

The study gathered data on cardiovascular fatalities among adults and the frequency of extreme heat days (defined as a maximum heat index ≥90 °F [32.2 °C]) in each county of the contiguous United States. It examined 2 potential future scenarios based on varying greenhouse gas emissions and socioeconomic projections.

The results show that extreme heat was responsible for an average of 1651 excess cardiovascular deaths annually during the initial study period. By midcentury (2036 to 2065), under the more conservative scenario, the projected annual excess deaths spike to 4320, marking an alarming 162% increase.

In the scenario with higher emissions, there was a projected 233% surge, resulting in 5491 additional annual deaths.

The study also underscores a notable disparity in vulnerability. Elderly adults face a 3.5 times higher risk of death in the more conservative scenario compared to their non-elderly counterparts. Similarly, non-Hispanic Black adults are projected to experience a 4.6 times greater increase in deaths compared to non-Hispanic White adults.

However, the findings do not indicate a statistically significant difference in projected changes for other racial and ethnic groups or between genders.

Khatana SAM, Eberly LA, Nathan AS, Groeneveld PW. Projected Change in the Burden of Excess Cardiovascular Deaths Associated With Extreme Heat by Midcentury (2036-2065) in the Contiguous United States. Circulation. 2023;doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.123.066017. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37901952.