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Stroke, Migraine, Alzheimer's: Climate Change Will Likely Make Them Worse
  • Posted May 16, 2024

Stroke, Migraine, Alzheimer's: Climate Change Will Likely Make Them Worse

Climate change is likely to make brain conditions like stroke, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis even worse, a new review warns.

The potential effects of a changing climate is likely to be substantial on a range of neurological conditions, researchers report May 15 in The Lancet Neurology journal.

“There is clear evidence for an impact of the climate on some brain conditions, especially stroke and infections of the nervous system,” said lead researcher Sanjay Sisodiya, a professor with the University College London Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

For the review, researchers analyzed data from 332 studies published between 1968 and 2023.

“The climatic variation that was shown to have an effect on brain diseases included extremes of temperature [both low and high], and greater temperature variation throughout the course of day -- especially when these measures were seasonally unusual,” Sisodiya said in a university news release.

Strokes increased during high temperature days or heat waves, researchers found.

Meanwhile, people with dementia were more susceptible to temperature-related conditions like heat stroke or hypothermia, as well as more vulnerable during weather events like flooding or wildfires.

“Reduced awareness of risk is combined with a diminished capacity to seek help or to mitigate potential harm, such as by drinking more in hot weather or by adjusting clothing,” the research team wrote. “Accordingly, greater temperature variation, hotter days and heatwaves lead to increased dementia-associated hospital admissions and mortality.”

In fact, the risk of many mental health disorders are associated with high temperatures, daily fluctuations in temperature, or extreme hot and cold, researchers said.

“Nighttime temperatures may be particularly important, as higher temperatures through the night can disrupt sleep. Poor sleep is known to aggravate a number of brain conditions,” Sisodiya said.

The investigators noted that newer research is more likely to find more associations between climate change and brain conditions, given that environmental factors during earlier studies may not have become severe enough to affect people's brains.

“This work is taking place against a worrying worsening of climatic conditions and it will need to remain agile and dynamic if it is to generate information that is of use to both individuals and organizations,” Sisodiya said. “Moreover, there are few studies estimating health consequences on brain diseases under future climate scenarios, making forward planning challenging."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on climate effects on health.

SOURCE: University College London, news release, May 15, 2024

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