Hot Weather and Common Medicines Linked to Heart Attack Risk

Beta-blockers and aspirin in hot weather? Think again. Mixing the two could lead to unwanted heart health risks.

Very hot weather has been long associated with an elevated risk of heart disease, and researchers predict that heart-attack rates will increase with a warming climate. A Yale School of Public Health study published in Nature shows that people taking beta-blockers and antiplatelet medications, including aspirin, should be even more cautious in high temperatures.

The researchers looked at data from 2,494 cases in which people experienced a non-fatal heart attack in Germany during the hot-weather months — from May through September — between 2001 and 2014.

People taking beta-blockers or antiplatelet medications were likelier to experience heart attacks during the hottest days than non-users. The usage of antiplatelet drugs that prevent blood clots from forming was linked to a 63% increased risk. Beta-blockers, used to decrease heart activity, elevated the risk of heart attack by 65%. Meanwhile, people taking both drugs had a 75% higher risk than those who did not take the medicines.

The researchers note that their study does not prove that the drugs caused heart attacks in the participants or made them more vulnerable. It is also possible that patients’ underlying heart disease explains why they are more prone to a heart attack in hot temperatures.

The authors of the study also compared younger patients aged 25 to 59 to older patients aged 60 to 74. The younger group had lower rates of coronary heart disease. However, those younger people taking beta-blockers and antiplatelet medications were more likely to have heat-related heart attacks than older patients.

Because other heart drugs didn’t show a connection to heat-related heart attacks, the researchers think some of the medications may make it hard to regulate body temperature.

Someone experiences a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States. About one in five attacks are silent, meaning they do the damage, but the person is unaware of it.

The warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort, primarily in the center or left side of the chest. It usually lasts for more than a few minutes, then goes away and returns.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, and back, as well as in one or both arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath.

Rising temperatures pose increased risks not only to people with heart disease. With a warming climate, we may see more wildfires that produce toxic smoke, prolonged pollen season, and a spike in infections.


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