By Babie Shirin
Based on experiences of heart surgeons who treated patients suffering from heart attack following dramatic changes in outdoor temperature, it has been highly speculated that climate change may increase the risk of heart attack to people.
However, there is a requirement for implementation of research surveys in the State by the department concerned on the matter as there are no records collected on such cases of heart attacks.
Doctors have expressed that extreme climate will become more common and this will put a strain on people’s hearts. Global warming is expected to cause extreme weather events, which may in turn result in large day to day fluctuation in temperature, as per their views.
They have the opinion that due to lack of research and study, it is still not known that the people of the state can suffer from such cases due to climate change. While the body has an effective system for responding to changes in temperature, it might be that more rapid and extreme fluctuations create more stress on the bodily systems, which could contribute to health problems, they said.
One study has revealed that along with an overall warming trend, climate change is projected to lead more extreme events such as heat waves and cold snaps, depending on where someone lives.
While interacting with special heart surgeon of Manipur and making visits to different hospitals, it has been found that heart patients suffering from heart attacks are brought into hospitals on a daily basis. Reasons are varied though it can be said that in relation to impact of climate change, patients of above 60 years are more sensitive to weather fluctuations.
Interacting with heart surgeon, Dr Kala, he stated that the increase and decrease in ambient temperature has a relationship with the cardiovascular mortality. The relationship between climate change and health is considered to be major concern in the health care system, he said. Exposure to hot temperature is associated with physiological changes which include: increase plasma viscosity and cholesterol level in serums, he informed.
He said that the physiological reactions to heat in current temperature conditions have to be studied and analysed in many experimental settings. “During heat exposure, imposes an acute demand on cardiovascular system by recruitment of cardiac reserve. Indeed, whole body heating increases the heart rate and cardiac output by up to 7-10 litre per minute and decrease central blood volume,” he said.
When outdoor temperature rise, the heart has to beat faster and work harder to pump blood to surface of the skin to assist with sweating to cool body, he further said. “If the body cannot cool itself enough, strain is put on the heart, and organ can suffer damages – a potentially fatal condition known as heat stroke,” he added.
Anyone can suffer heat stroke, but people with heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases are at greater risk, he further said. As the temperature rises, the body tries to adapt and balance the heat by increasing blood flow to the skin and by sweating, he informed. Sweating leads to dehydration, which reduces the volume of blood. “This makes the heart pump harder to circulate the reduced amount of blood around the body. If the body has dehydration then it is compulsory that viscosity will increase, increasing viscosity will become cells stagnation, stagnation will form thrombosis on artery and veins of heart that leads to heart attack and cerebral thrombosis,” he added.
He further stated that women above 60 years are more prone to heart attacks due to less estrogen levels in the body. Heart attacks may be caused by other reasons but researches have been conducted concerning the link between heart attack and climate changes in countries like USA, Korea, Iran, he added.
“It is not that heart attacks do not occur during cold season. People have lack of awareness on heart attacks and stroke etc. As there is no data to link climate change with heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases, research and studies are highly essential and it will require financial and manpower. On the other hand, as climate change has already started impacting the health of the people, the state government or authorities concerned should initiate studies, particularly on cardiovascular diseases,” he said.
With the increase of temperature and extension in the numbers of hot days, this leads to increase in cardiovascular disease and further causing an increase in mortality rate. The increases will be further intensified in the future decades, he said. Therefore, necessary preventive measures are required to mitigate the effects of temperature with greater attention to vulnerable groups, he added.
This reporter visited medical directorate, Lamphelpat and went through some of the records from cardiovascular related disease section. It was found that the records of this year from April to September months are being maintained on cardiovascular diseases and stroke cases.
From April to September of this going year, there have been 362 recorded cases of cardiovascular diseases and 60 stroke cases in the State. There were no further records and also one section officer said that the data was collected for programme presentation under NPCDS.
Mentioned may be made that the prevalence of heart disease and stroke has increased by over 50 percent from 1990 to 2016 in India, with an increasing observed in every state. Heart disease now is the leading individual cause of ‘disease burden’ in India and stroke is the fifth leading cause, according to ‘Down to Earth’ publication.
While interacting with doctors of different hospital related to cardiovascular diseases, most of them expressed that high temperature can increase the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes in susceptible patients because of increased blood viscosity. Proposed mechanism between heat and cardiovascular mortality include increased surface blood circulation and sweating. This leads to increased cardiac workload, dehydration and salt depletion, haemoconcentration, elevated blood viscosity and the risk of thrombosis.
The State has started facing the impact of climate change and it has directly or indirectly affecting the public health. Most of the doctors are aware of the increase of cardiovascular diseases and giving necessary treatment. However, they are unable to confirm that cardiovascular diseases are directly linked with climate change. The state government has to be more conscious on the impact of climate change on health.
(Published under environment and climate change fellowship 2019)