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Heat Increases Respiratory Hospital Admissions in Elderly

May worsen with global warming and aging populations

MONDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing temperatures in Europe in the spring and summer are associated with an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory problems in the elderly, which may become worse with global warming and an aging population, researchers report in the Mar. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Paola Michelozzi, Ph.D., from the Local Health Authority in Rome, Italy, and colleagues examined the impact of high temperatures on hospital admissions for cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory causes in 12 European cities from April to September for at least a three-year period between 1990 and 2001.

The researchers found that increases in maximum apparent temperature above a certain threshold were associated with an increase in respiratory admissions in the elderly (over 75 years old). Each one degree Celsius rise was associated with a 4.5 percent increase in respiratory admissions in Mediterranean cities (Barcelona, Ljubljana, Milan, Rome, Turin and Valencia) and a 3.1 percent increase in North-Continental cities (Budapest, Dublin, London, Paris, Stockholm and Zurich). There was no significant association between temperature and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular admissions, the report indicates.

"High temperatures have a specific impact on respiratory admissions, particularly in the elderly population, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood," Michelozzi and colleagues conclude. "The impact of extreme heat events on respiratory admissions is expected to increase in European cities as a result of global warming and progressive population aging."

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