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American Heart Association

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Winter rise in heart-related deaths independent of climate

Death from cardiovascular causes is more likely in the winter, regardless of climate, according to research1 presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012.

Researchers at Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, analysed 2005–08 death certificate data from seven US locations with different climates: Los Angeles County, California; Texas; Arizona; Georgia; Washington; Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The authors 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.

In all areas, total and “circulatory” deaths rose an average 26% to 36% from the summer low to the winter peak over four years. Circulatory deaths include fatal heart attack, heart failure, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Dr Bryan Schwartz (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque)

Dr Bryan Schwartz (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque)

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. Lead author Dr Bryan Schwartz (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque) hypothesised 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 Dr Schwartz. “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 added.


1. Schwartz B, Kloner R. SS12 – Schwartz ABS 11723 – Sessions Presentation. American Heart Association 2012. Available from:

Published on: November 15, 2012

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