People with diabetes, patients over 55 and men are the most susceptible to changes in atmospheric conditions that trigger cardiovascular disease, according to recent research from Semmelweis University. The university’s scientists have been studying the impact of climate change on heart disorders, and it has inspired the emergence of a new scientific discipline, which they have named cardiometeorology.

Hungarian experts analysed data from 7230 patients treated for acute cardiovascular problems at Semmelweis University’s Heart and Vascular Centre in Budapest, Hungary, between 2017 and 2021. They were looking to identify what role atmospheric factors might play in the development of cardiovascular disease and which patient groups are most at risk from weather and air pollution. 

Using a unique mathematical method, they analysed the relationship between the number of daily hospital admissions due to acute cardiovascular diseases, patients’ age, sex, cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, previous cardiovascular disease) and atmospheric parameters during a period of five years, on a day-to-day basis.

Patients with diabetes were detected as the most vulnerable group against atmospheric parameters.

The interaction between temperature change (5°C≤) and elevated ozone concentration (90 µg/m³≤) showed a positive association with daily hospitalisation counts of diabetic patients. A similar association was found with the daily hospitalisation counts of male patients. The analysis also showed that people over the age of 55 were more at risk of cardiovascular disease triggered by temperature fluctuations than younger people. 

The Hungarian researchers presented their findings at the European Society of Cardiologists’ annual congress in Amsterdam and in London at Semmelweis University’s introductory event in November.

“The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change has declared climate change the biggest health threat of the 21st century. The resulting adverse atmospheric conditions are mainly predicted to increase the incidence of acute cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, for prevention and healthcare management purposes, it is of utmost importance to identify the relevant weather and air pollution factors and the most vulnerable patient groups,” explains Dr Nora Boussoussou, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Semmelweis University’s Heart and Vascular Centre, also the founder of cardiometeorology.

Globally, cardiovascular diseases account for 17.9 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It also states that climate change increases extreme weather events, heat waves, storms, atmospheric fronts, and floods. Data shows that currently 3.6 billion people are directly exposed to the effects of global warming. The WHO predicts that between 2030 and 2050, the number of climate change-generated deaths (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, malnutrition, infectious diseases) could rise by 250,000 per year worldwide.

Any cardiovascular condition associated with changes in meteorological parameters can be defined as a cardiometeorological syndrome.

Cardiometeorology is a solutions-oriented, new scientific field investigating the effects of atmospheric parameters and climate change on the incidences of cardiovascular disease. It also aims to develop prevention strategies that can help alleviate the adverse cardiovascular effects of environmental factors. While previous studies have primarily focused on weather and air pollution factors separately, Semmelweis researchers analyse the combined health effects of atmospheric conditions.

“We aim to build a complex health alert system where hospitals and the most vulnerable patients can prepare for weather-related health emergencies with more cardiovascular patients.

Cardiometeorology is a new paradigm of medicine that gives an environmental aspect to cardiology practice. In our concept, prevention plays an important role, and we aim to identify which patient groups need more attention in certain atmospheric conditions,”

adds Dr Nora Boussoussou.

Semmelweis University oversees the cardiometeorology-related clinical research within Hungary’s National Laboratory for Climate Change framework. In their subsequent publication, the researchers will analyse the impact of atmospheric conditions on other diseases.

Photo: Nora Boussoussou; Cover photo (illustration): iStock – dragana991