Public Health

Climate Change and Stroke: Know Your Risk

A woman wiping sweat from her brow while walking outdoors.

Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.

Climate change has influenced everything from scorching summer temperatures and rampant wildfires to devastating hurricanes, deadly floods and catastrophic blizzards. And now, new findings published in the medical journal Neurology show stroke deaths are on the rise due to climate change as well.

The new study estimates over half a million stroke deaths worldwide are the result of extreme temperatures. Learn how climate change increases your risk of stroke and what you can do to reduce your risk.

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is the term for the long-term shifts in global temperatures and weather patterns.

Indicators of climate change include:

  • Changes in cloud and vegetation coverage
  • Frequent severe weather events like hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts and heatwaves
  • Melting glaciers and ice caps
  • Rising land and ocean temperatures

Some climate change is natural, but most change is human-made, which means we can prevent it — or at least slow its progression.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to the brain and those within the brain.

A stroke can be caused by either a clot (called ischemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel (called hemorrhagic stroke). Both stop blood flow to the brain.

A third type of stroke, called transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is caused by a temporary clot. A TIA is also called a mini-stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the second-leading cause of death and the third-leading cause of disability worldwide.

How Extreme Weather Affects Heart Health

One of the most easily felt results of climate change is the rise in temperature. Scorching temperatures make it difficult for your body to self-regulate and cool down, which can make your blood clot more easily and can lead to a stroke.

When you’re overheated, you can also become dehydrated, forcing your heart to work harder — again, increasing your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.

But it’s not just extreme heat that’s dangerous. Extreme cold is an issue, too. Hotter land temperatures caused by global warming have weakened the polar vortex (dense cold air mass around the North and South Poles), which can lead to colder temperatures in some parts of the world. When exposed to severely cold temperatures, your skin’s cold receptors are triggered, and the blood vessels in your arms and legs can constrict or narrow, causing your blood pressure to spike.

Ways to Reduce Stroke Risk

You may not be able to control climate change (although you can reduce your personal carbon footprint). But there are things you can do to lower your stroke risk.

First, you must understand your risk factors and know the warning signs. And since women often display different symptoms than men, knowing what to look for is important.

Other ways to reduce your stroke risk:

  • Check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise/move your body daily
  • Know your family history of stroke
  • Prioritize quality sleep
  • Quit smoking and limit/stop alcohol
  • Set weather alerts and stay inside in extreme weather
  • Stay hydrated

When in Doubt, Go to the ER

Climate change may increase your stroke risk, but you can take steps to protect yourself. Schedule an appointment with your AdventHealth provider for a full evaluation and physical.

If you think you’re having a stroke, don’t wait. Go to your nearest emergency room immediately. Our expert team of emergency medicine doctors and nurses is here for you, 24/7.

Recent Blogs

An older woman talking on the phone outdoors.
Living Life to the Fullest With Lupus
A family hiking together.
Camping and Hiking Safety Tips
Heat Wave Poses Extra Risk to Patients on Certain Medications
A father and son grilling on the porch.
Keep Food Safe in the Heat This Summer
5 Tips to Help You Remember Your Child is in the Car
View More Articles