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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Climate change and diseases. These patients are particularly vulnerable

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Climate change has a negative impact on people with brain diseases, say British scientists in the Lancet Neurology. Research shows that extremes related to air temperature and its large fluctuations are particularly dangerous.

Scientists from University College London reviewed 332 scientific publications that were published around the world between 1968 and 2023 and concerned the relationship between climate change and the symptoms of 19 different diseases of the nervous system, such as stroke, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, meningitis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Additionally, several common mental illnesses were included in the analysis, including anxiety disorders, depression and schizophrenia.

The authors of the study obtained evidence that climate change affects patients with certain brain diseases, especially after stroke and with infections of the nervous system.

– Climate change that has an impact on the course of brain diseases includes temperature extremes and greater differences in temperatures during the day, especially when they are unusual for a given season – commented professor Sanjay Sisodiya, who led the study, co-founder of the association of professionals supporting research on climate change and epilepsy (Epilepsy Climate Change). He emphasized that “night temperatures may be particularly important because higher temperatures at night may disturb sleep.” – Sleep problems, in turn, can exacerbate numerous brain diseases – he noted.

At higher ambient temperatures or during heatwaves, there was an increase in hospital admissions for strokes, as well as more disabilities and deaths from strokes.

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People with dementia are susceptible to the negative effects of anomalies

Additionally, it has been reported that people suffering from dementia are susceptible to the harmful effects of extreme temperatures (including problems related to overheating or hypothermia) and weather anomalies, such as floods or natural fires. This may be related to the fact that cognitive disorders limit the ability to adapt to environmental changes. Lower awareness of risk in these people is associated with poorer ability to seek help or prevent and mitigate potential harm, for example by increasing fluid consumption in hot weather or choosing appropriate clothing, the researchers wrote.

In their opinion, this susceptibility is enhanced by fragility, multi-morbidity (co-occurrence of various diseases) and the use of psychotropic drugs. Therefore, greater temperature fluctuations, warmer days and heatwaves lead to increased hospital admissions and mortality among people with dementia.

Mental health and ambient temperature

The analysis also revealed a link between many mental health disorders – morbidity, hospital admissions and mortality – and increased ambient temperatures, daily temperature fluctuations or extreme high and low temperatures. As the authors of the study emphasized, there is an urgent need to better understand the impact of climate change on people suffering from neurological diseases. This will help them take effective actions to maintain their health and prevent deepening inequalities.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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