Higher Arctic Temperatures Trigger Heart Attacks

Published Online: Friday, August 1, 2003

Scientists in Sweden are placing partial blame for heart attacks on the weather, as reported in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine. Residents in northern Sweden and other parts of the Arctic have higher levels of cholesterol in their blood than people living farther south. Experts have found that, when the temperature jumps in northern Sweden, the incidence of heart attacks jumps.

The researchers? study evaluated hospital records in Sweden?s 2 northernmost counties, where 510,000 people live. "Meteorological factors could be one of the so far neglected factors" in explaining heart attacks, the report said. A possible rationale was that people became more active when the temperature rose and had heart attacks after exerting themselves. The study tracked complex shifts in barometric pressure known as the Arctic Oscillation, which regulates temperature, humidity, and winds. Over the course of the study from 1985 to 1999, the oscillation index ranged from ?4.1 to +4.1. A 1-point rise in the index was responsible for 8.3% more heart fatalities than normal.

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