Climate change may worsen conditions of patients with heart problems

Body weight of people with heart failure would fluctuate during heatwaves

By Arya Rohini
Published: Thursday 29 September 2022

Hot temperatures during the 2019 heatwave in France caused weight loss in patients suffering from heart diseases, according to a recent study. A weight loss may indicate worsening of the patient’s condition.

Clinicians and patients should cut the dose of diuretics when weight loss occurs under the pretext of rising temperatures, highlighted the study published in the journal ESC Heart Failure September 28, 2022.

Heart failure patients take diuretics to increase urine output and reduce breathlessness and swelling. Increased urine output prevents fluid retention in the lungs, legs and abdomen.

“The weight loss we observed in people with heart failure may lead to low blood pressure and renal failure and is potentially life-threatening,” said  François Roubille, an author of the study.

The heart does not effectively pump blood around the body in those with heart failure. Waste products pile up, resulting in breathlessness and fluid retention.

Weight is the cornerstone of heart surveillance. Weight gain is linked to congestion, the primary reason for hospitalisation.

Patients were advised to inform their healthcare provider or increase their diuretic dosage if they suffered an increase in swelling or a rapid, unanticipated weight gain of more than 2 kilograms in three days, according to the European Society of Cardiology.

During heatwaves, the body weight of people with heart failure would fluctuate, according to the researchers.

“When healthy people drink more fluids during hot weather, the body automatically regulates urine output. This does not apply to patients with heart failure because they take diuretics,” Roubille explained.

The researchers examined 1,420 patients with persistent heart failure from June 1-September 20, spanning the two heatwaves of 2019.

Information on weight and symptoms was remotely gathered using a nationwide telemonitoring system. Every day, patients weighed themselves using a connected scale. The scale automatically communicated measurements to the clinic.

Patients recorded daily symptoms by replying to the questions asked by the clinic and the researchers linked it to the weather data collected from the nearest weather stations.

They analysed the relationship between the patient’s weight and temperature.

Weight decreased as temperature increased, indicating a close correlation between the two variables. Temperatures were shown to have the strongest correlation with weight two days before the weight measurement.

“The weight loss we observed during the heatwave was clinically relevant. Patients weighing 78 kilograms lost 1.5 kg in a short period of time,” Roubille said.

We were surprised that weight dropped with hot temperatures, as we had expected the opposite, he added.

Better telemonitoring technologies should be adopted to look after elderly patients as global warming worsens, urged the researchers. Reacting early should help us to prevent complications, they added.

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