Warm climate or cold, heart deaths rise in the winter
It doesn't matter whether you live in Los Angeles or in Massachusetts, you're more likely to die of a heart-related problem such as heart attack, heart failure or stroke when the weather is (relatively) cold.
Researchers looked at death records from seven different United States locations — L.A, Massachusetts, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Washington and Pennsylvania — and found a consistent pattern “across the board,” says Dr. Robert Kloner, a cardiologist at the Heart Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and a collaborator in a study presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.
In the sites the team surveyed, it found a 26 percent to 36 percent increase in circulatory deaths in winter compared with summer and early fall.
“This was surprising because climate was thought to be the primary determinant of seasonal variation in death rates,” Dr. Bryan Schwartz, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
Kloner says the results suggested that people acclimatize to the conditions where they live, and that factors beyond temperature — including higher rates of flu infection, less-healthful lifestyles in winter months, and higher rates of depression when the weather takes a turn for the worse — could be important in determining when deaths occur during a typical year.
Much of Kloner's work focuses on triggers of cardiovascular events, he added, noting that there are many triggers of heart problems beyond the chronic-risk factors that often come to mind, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. Heart problems escalated after the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake in January 1994, for instance, and after the L.A. Rams' Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 1980.
The holiday season also seems to affect health in Los Angeles, Kloner says.
— The Los Angeles Times
Study finds drop in heart attacks with smoke-free law
A decline in heart attacks in one Minnesota county appears to be linked to smoke-free workplace laws, according to a new report in Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.
According to a release from the journal, which published the study online last week, exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with coronary heart disease in non-smokers, and research suggests that the cardiovascular effects of secondhand smoke are nearly as large as those with active smoking.
Richard D. Hurt, a Mayo Clinic physician, and his Mayo colleagues in Rochester, Minn., evaluated the incidence of heart attack and sudden cardiac death in Olmsted County, Minn., during the 18-month period before and after implementation of smoke-free ordinances. In 2002, a smoke-free restaurant ordinance was implemented and, in 2007, all workplaces, including bars, became smoke free.
“We report a substantial decline in the incidence of (heart attack) from 18 months before the smoke-free restaurant law was implemented to 18 months after the comprehensive smoke-free workplace law was implemented five years later,” the authors comment, according to the journal's release.
When comparing the 18 months before implementation of the smoke-free restaurant ordinance with the 18 months after implementation of the smoke-free workplace law, heart attack incidence declined 33 percent from about 150.8 to 100.7 per 100,000 population, and the incidence of sudden cardiac death declined 17 percent from 109.1 to 92 per 100,000 population.
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel