Climate change and your heart: what you need to know

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We all know that climate change affects the environment. What’s becoming increasingly clear is that it’s also a major health issue—specifically for heart health.

Experts from across the medical field came together to address this pressing concern in a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Why Climate Change Matters for Your Heart

Climate change isn’t just about melting icebergs; it’s also hurting our health. According to estimates from 2019, nine million people died early from air pollution, and a whopping 62% of those deaths were due to heart-related issues.

This makes it clear: climate change is also a serious issue for cardiovascular health.

For instance, experts highlighted the 2021 heat dome event in British Columbia, Canada, which led to 619 heat-related deaths.

Extreme heat and air pollution don’t just damage the planet—they can worsen heart conditions and even create new ones.

What’s the “Exposome,” and Why Should You Care?

The “exposome” is a term used to describe the total amount of stuff we’re exposed to in our environment over our lifetime, like air and food quality.

This issue of the journal pointed out that our exposome plays a big role in the health of our hearts. Simply put, the places we live, the air we breathe, and even the food we eat can have long-term impacts on our heart health.

The Main Factors Putting Your Heart at Risk

According to experts, there are four major environmental factors that affect heart health:

Air Pollution: Bad air quality increases the risk of heart diseases and worsens existing conditions.

Unhealthy Food: Processed food can hurt your heart, too.

Lack of Green Spaces: Without areas to walk or exercise, people are less likely to stay active, which is essential for heart health.

Climate Conditions: Extreme weather events like heatwaves and cold spells can be especially dangerous for people with heart problems.

Healthcare providers are now being advised to consider these factors when assessing the risks for heart diseases.

They recommend asking three key questions: Who is the patient (family history, ethnicity, etc.)? What does the patient do (eating habits, activity levels)? Where does the patient live (air quality, access to green spaces)?

What Can Be Done?

The need for “climate-smart” healthcare providers is growing. These are doctors and other professionals trained to consider the environmental factors affecting heart health.

From extreme heat to poor air quality, they can guide patients on how to adapt and protect themselves.

Experts are calling for more education on this topic. They believe that healthcare leaders should teach the public and policymakers about the risks of climate change on heart health.

By understanding these risks, the hope is that we can all take steps to protect our hearts and live healthier lives, even as we face the challenges of a changing climate.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the link between climate change and heart health is crucial. This isn’t just an environmental issue; it’s a human health issue.

Both patients and healthcare providers need to adapt to this new reality. By working together, it’s hoped that we can reduce the number of heart-related deaths and improve public health on a warming planet.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about potatoes and high blood pressure, and results showing 6 best breads for people with heart disease.

The research findings can be found in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

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