Extreme cold increases mortality, morbidity for those with cardiovascular diseases

Extreme temperatures can put undo pressure on the human body—which can lead to deadly complications for those with cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Recent research discovered cold temperatures, meaning the first to third percentile of local exposure history, have an especially significant impact on mortality and morbidity for those with cardiovascular diseases.

The study—led by Yang Liu with the school of public health at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Minneapolis—was published online April 10 in Risk Analysis.

"Considering climate variability over space and time, tailored emergency risk communication programs are extremely important for informing the general public about potential health risks, such as severe heat waves or cold snaps, and how individuals can protect themselves," wrote corresponding author Matteo Convertino, an associate professor of Hokkaido University in Japan. “Our model can determine such temperature thresholds to start risk communications, which is important for saving human lives.”

Researchers examined temperature data in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota, which can have extremely cold winters and hot, humid summers, between 1998 and 2014. The team then compared this data with emergency department visits between 2005 and 2014.

Risks for mortality and morbidity rose during periods of extreme temperatures, but populations were affected differently. Those with diabetes showed no significant response to extreme hot or cold. Individuals with cardiovascular diseases were at greater risk in the winter, but mortality and morbidity were in line with the general population in the summer.

Researchers said these results may help public health officials tailor messages to those with conditions that may increase risk during certain weather conditions.