Heart-related deaths increase in winter regardless of climate

Abstract 11723 - Embargoed until 8 a.m. PT /11 a.m. ET

November 06, 2012 Categories: Heart News, Scientific Conferences & Meetings
This news release is featured in a news conference at 8 a.m., PT on Tuesday, Nov. 6
 
Study Highlights:
  • No matter what climate you live in, you’re more likely to die of heart-related issues in the winter.
  • Seasonal patterns of total and cardiac deaths were very similar in seven different locations with seven different climates, according to new research.
  • Maintaining healthy behaviors, such as eating well and exercising, is important in winter, researchers said.
American Heart Association Meeting Report:
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 6, 2012 — No matter what climate you live in, you’re more likely to die of heart-related issues in the winter, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012.
 
“This was surprising because climate was thought to be the primary determinant of seasonal variation in death rates,” said Bryan Schwartz, M.D., lead author of the study.
 
Researchers at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles analyzed 2005-08 death certificate data from seven U.S. locations with different climates: Los Angeles County, Calif.; Texas; Arizona; Georgia; Washington; Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
 
In all areas, total and “circulatory” deaths rose an average 26 percent to 36 percent from the summer low to the winter peak over four years. Circulatory deaths include fatal heart attack, heart failure, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
 
Seasonal patterns of total and cardiac deaths were very similar in the seven different climate patterns. Death rates at all sites clustered closely together and no one site was statistically different from any other site.
 
Researchers didn’t design the analysis to determine specific causes that might drive heart-related deaths up in winter. Schwartz hypothesized that colder weather might increase vessel constriction and raise blood pressure.
 
“In addition, people generally don’t live as healthy in winter as they do in summer,” said Schwartz, now a cardiology fellow at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. “They don’t eat as well and don’t exercise as much.”
 
However, “people should be extra aware that maintaining healthy behaviors is important in winter,” he said.
 
Schwartz and Robert Kloner, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study, used statistical techniques to account for the normal year-to-year temperature differences over the four years. Then, they averaged the resulting four-year data into U-shaped curves for each site and compared them. The graphs showed significant similarities.
 
Funding and disclosure information is on the abstract.
 
For more information about cold weather and cardiovascular disease, visit heart.org/coldweather.
 
Follow news from AHA Scientific Sessions 2012 via Twitter: @HeartNews.
 
Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position.  The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events.  The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content.  Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.
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Note: Actual presentation is 11 a.m. PT Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 in Room 502a.
 
All downloadable video/audio interviews, B-roll, animation and images related to this news release are on the right column of the release link at http://newsroom.heart.org/pr/aha/_prv-heart-related-deaths-increase-239568.aspx
Video clips with researchers/authors of studies will be added to the release links after embargo. 
 
For Media Inquiries:
AHA News Media in Dallas: (214) 706-1173
AHA News Media Office, Nov. 3-7
at the Los Angeles Convention Center: (213) 743-6205
For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721)
heart.org and strokeassociation.org 

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