Climate Change: An Urgent Threat to Cardiovascular Health

Take Home Messages
  • Climate change is an important and urgent threat to cardiovascular health, and is likely to worsen with potential catastrophic consequences
  • A warming climate and an increase in extreme heat events may increase mortality, particularly increasing rates of heart attack, stroke and heart failure
  • Air pollution causes many harmful effects to the cardiovascular system and is particularly prevalent in urban environments
  • Tackling climate change through policy change, urban planning and personal actions can help to minimise future destruction of the environment
  • Dealing with environment associated risks to health will need to form part of future patient education and cardiovascular disease prevention

Climate change is predicted to lead to significantly worse global cardiovascular outcomes in years to come, including increases in myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, heart failure and death (1). Climate change is increasingly being viewed as a medical emergency. The current situation has been described as a ‘code red’ for humanity in recent UN reports, with billions potentially in danger from its effects (2, 3). There has been a widespread call for emergency action within the medical community to limit global temperature rises and avert catastrophe, with a joint statement published last year in a number of leading journals (4).

Climate change causes many potential threats to human health, including changes in rainfall, flooding, disruptions to food supply and destruction of ecosystems. This article will focus on global warming, air pollution and the urban environment, and their impacts on cardiovascular health.