How winds cause heart attacks

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The Independent Online
IT'S AN ill wind that blows from the west, according to a leading specialist in hypothermia, writes Roger Dobson.

Such winds make the weather more changeable and lower body temperatures, says Dr Evan Lloyd, a consultant anaesthetist based in Edinburgh.

Dr Lloyd claims that this results in more heart attacks and more strokes for those people who live in the west and north of Britain.

People who live on the north-western side of Britain are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease as those who live on the sheltered east and south-east, he says. And death rates from heart disease in the north- west are almost double those in East Anglia.

"People underestimate the effects of the wind," Dr Lloyd said. "It's not even taken into account in the Government's cold-weather payment formula which relies solely on temperature.

"A body loses more heat at 10 degrees centigrade with a wind of 20mph than it does at minus 10C with no wind at all."

Dr Lloyd has written on the subject for the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

In the article he says: "The risk of heart disease clearly rises as the climate becomes colder, wetter, windier and more changeable. This even overrides the social class factor."

Dr Lloyd added yesterday that the wind and weather may be at least as important as lifestyle and diet in heart disease. "The genetic influence is negligible because people who move home rapidly acquire the risks of heart disease of their new area of residence," he said.

But precisely how the cold can or does affect the body is not clear.

"Cold is a stress," he said. "When you are exposed to cold your adrenalin production goes up and it could be linked to that."