Title: Rising Extreme Heat Expected to Increase Cardiovascular-Related Deaths: Study
Subtitle: Vulnerable Populations Disproportionately Affected, Highlighting Need for Health Equity
[LOCATION] – A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that the United States will witness a significant increase in cardiovascular-related deaths attributed to extreme heat between 2036 and 2065. The study warns that older adults and Black adults, already vulnerable due to underlying medical conditions and socioeconomic barriers, will bear a disproportionate burden.
Currently, extreme heat contributes to less than 1% of cardiovascular-related deaths. However, the situation is projected to change as the number of summer days with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees rises. Researchers evaluated county-level data spanning from 2008 to 2019 and found that each summer, the heat index reached at least 90 degrees approximately 54 times, causing an average of 1,651 annual cardiovascular deaths.
The study estimates that in the future, between 2036 and 2065, summers will witness a staggering 71 to 80 days with temperatures of 90 degrees or higher. Consequently, the number of heat-related cardiovascular deaths is expected to increase to 4,320 per year, and potentially surge to 5,491 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
Of particular concern is the impact on older adults and Black adults, for whom the study suggests deaths related to cardiovascular disease due to extreme heat could nearly triple. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are at a heightened risk for cardiovascular events during extreme heat.
The researchers emphasize the urgent need for health equity, as extreme heat exacerbates existing health disparities. Measures to mitigate the impacts include implementing cooling strategies, such as tree planting for shade, creating cooling centers, and utilizing heat-reflective materials in cities. However, more research is needed to fully understand the population health impact of these approaches.
The study also underscores the potential consequences for regions with warmer climates and already existing health disparities. By shedding light on this issue, it aims to raise awareness and encourage action to protect vulnerable populations.
This research was made possible by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. With the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative dedicated to addressing climate change’s impact on health, it is hoped that further studies and collaborative efforts will lead to effective strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of extreme heat and promote health equity across the nation.
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