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  • Cameron Oglesby

In summer heat, can some heart meds increase heart attack risks?

Every day, millions of Americans with coronary disease take beta blockers to lower the risk of heart attacks. Millions more take statins to lower their cholesterol and low-dose aspirins or prescription blood thinners to prevent artery-blocking blood clots.

The study was statistical, not clinical in nature. Using a registry, epidemiological researchers examined 2,494 cases of non-fatal heart attacks in Augsburg, Germany, during the hot-weather months of May through September between 2001 and 2014. Unlike previous studies, researchers focused on which medications patients were taking before their heart attacks.

Blood thinners, they found, were associated with a 63% higher risk of heart attacks during the hottest days and beta blockers with a 65% higher risk. People taking both had a 75% higher risk. Counterintuitively, they found that younger (25-59 years) patients, who were presumably heart-healthier, were more susceptible to heat-related heart attacks than older ones (60-74).

Other heart medicines did not show similar patterns.

For several reasons, this study is more suggestive than conclusive. One is that correlation doesn’t mean causation. Another is that the patients were racially and ethnically homogeneous. And a third is that important patient data was self-reported; subjects compared their heat exposure on days with heart attacks to the same days of the week that month.

But why take chances? “Patients taking these two medications have higher risk,” says Professor Kai Chen, the study’s first author. “During heat waves, they should really take precautions.”

These precautions include using your home and car air conditioning; going to air-conditioned restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, and other public locations; and doing your exercises in an air-conditioned facility rather than outdoors. (Your Medicare Advantage Plan likely participates in the Silver Sneakers program, which gives you free access to air-conditioned workout facilities at the Ys, the JCC, and other locations around town.)

The study also shows, though not explicitly, that while most people taking those meds may have higher heat-related heart attack risks, one-fourth to one-third don’t. And that there are many seniors who don’t need to take those medications in the first place.

The point is that everybody is different – and that’s our heartfelt belief at Senior Insights.

It’s why, before we recommend any kind of care, we conduct a thorough three-part assessment of a client’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial care needs. It’s the first step in designing a holistic senior care management plan geared to your specific needs, values, preferences, and desire for independence – with no pigeonholing or stereotyping whatever.

Please contact us to learn what a difference that can make.

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