Facebook Pixel

Risk of Cardiovascular Death May Increase in Extreme Temperatures

By Blogger
Rate This
extreme temperatures can affect your risk for cardiovascular death Zhanna Ocheret-RS/PhotoSpin

Now that summer is officially over and the morning air has the crispness that can only signal the arrival of fall, outdoor lovers may be breathing a sigh of relief.

It’s certainly no secret that summer, along with its extreme heat, is hard on the heart. The sun-lovers among us are well aware of the need for precautions to keep our heart healthy during the long, dog-days of summer.

Light-weight breathable clothing, an ice-cold glass of water, and a shady place to rest were a small price to pay for summer fun when the payoff was a heart-healthy summer free of heat stroke and cardiac events.

Now that the heat has passed, you can enjoy the outdoors and not worry about the impact of the extreme weather on your heart!

But before you exhale, you just may want to rethink that sigh of relief. According to the results of new study, extreme cold may be just as hard on cardiovascular health as extreme summer heat.

Research conducted in Brisbane, Australia found that extreme temperatures -- both heat and cold -- increase the risk of death from a cardiac event.

The Brisbane study is unique because it’s the first study to specifically examine the impact of average daily temperature on premature death due to cardiovascular disease.

Led by Cunrui Huang, M.Med., M.S.P.H., researchers compared average daily temperatures from 1996 through 2004 to deaths from heart-related disease which occurred during the same time period.

For purposes of the study, researchers used the hottest and coldest 1 percent of temperature extremes to calculate their findings. In Brisbane, heat waves were considered above 84.5˚F and cold spells below 53˚F.

As a part of study, researchers also measured the total number of “years of life lost” in Australia as a result of cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that 72 years of life are lost daily per each 1 million persons, as a result of cardiovascular-related disease.

Average life expectancy was used to calculate the total years of life lost.

While the risk of premature death from a cardiovascular-related event increased in both extreme heat and cold, researchers found that heat waves lasting two or more days resulted in the greatest risk of premature death.

Extreme temperatures are linked to higher rates of blood pressure, increased heart rates, and thickening of the blood.

Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures may exhaust physical resources to the point where a person becomes susceptible to a cardiac-related event. In addition, other health conditions, such as obesity or diabetes, may be contributing factors.

While the study findings are based on a specific locality, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences report that hospital admissions for cardiovascular-related events -- strokes, chest pain, heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, and arrhythmias, for example -- are higher during both extreme heat and cold.


American Heart Association (2012, September 17). Extreme temperatures may raise risk of premature cardiovascular death. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 8, 2012, from

Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke and Climate Change. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Extreme temperatures may raise risk of premature cardiovascular death. American Heart Association. 18 Sept 2012.

Journal Reference:

1. C. Huang, A. G. Barnett, X. Wang, S. Tong. Effects of Extreme Temperatures on Years of Life Lost for Cardiovascular Deaths: A Time Series Study in Brisbane, Australia. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 2012; 5 (5): 609

Reviewed October 9, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments


Very interesting. I would have thought the opposite. Where the cold kind of takes some of the stress off your heart by your body slowing down. But it makes sense if you think about all the men that have had heart attacks shoveling snow.

Marielaina Perrone DDS
Henderson Implant Dentist

October 9, 2012 - 3:37pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Heart Disease

Get Email Updates

Heart Disease Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!