The Northern Hemisphere is currently in the grip of a heatwave. The heatwave has now stretched across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. The hot weather this year has been more severe than in previous years, and scientists expect the historical temperature record to be broken in many countries. As heatwaves have been increasing in severity over the years, concerns are growing about their impact on the health and livelihood of the population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), extreme hot weather is an environmental and occupational health hazard and is the leading cause of weather-related deaths. Hot weather exacerbates underlying illnesses including cardiovascular diseases. Heat stroke is a medical emergency with a high risk of death. As extreme hot weather is a high risk, especially for the elderly and children, mitigating its impact should be a top priority.

The meteorological office in the UK defines a heatwave as “an extended period of hot weather relative to the expected conditions of the area at that time of year, which may be accompanied by high humidity.” Heatwaves are increasing in frequency, duration, and intensity due to climate change and its impact. As heatwaves increase in severity, the number of people affected by the heatwaves also grows. The WHO estimates that heat-related deaths increased in people ages 65 years and older by 85% between 2000–2004 and 2017–2021. Heatwaves also exacerbate socioeconomic inequality as the impact on the poorer population is much higher than on the richer population due to a lack of resources.

The systematic review conducted by Liu and colleagues and published in The Lancet Planetary Health in June 2022 explored the impact of heat exposure on cardiovascular health. This was a systematic review of 7,360 observational studies from 1990 to 2022. The review analyzed environmental exposure and cardiovascular events including mortality. The study reported that a 1°C rise in temperature increased the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 2.1%. The 1°C rise in temperature increased the morbidity of cardiac arrhythmia and coronary heart disease by 0.5%. The risk was higher for older people living in low- and middle-income countries. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that in 2024 there will be 166,500,000 total diagnosed prevalent cases of coronary artery disease in the 16 major markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea), and that this will increase to 177,000,000 cases in 2032. The diagnosed cases could increase further if heatwaves become more prolonged and intense in the future.

There is growing evidence that climate change is causing disruptions in regular weather patterns and increasing the possibility of prolonged and intense heatwaves, threatening the health of millions of people worldwide. Climate change mitigation efforts are urgently required at both the national and international levels to prevent serious cardiovascular and other health risks in the population.

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