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Cleveland Clinic Journal of MedicineHow Does Climate Change Impact Our Patients?

Climate Change and Its Profound Impact on Patient Health: A Comprehensive Analysis

In a recent story, Ilyssa O. Gordon, MD, PhD, and colleagues thoroughly examine the intersection of climate change and patient health. The article stresses the urgency for physicians to integrate climate-related health information into their clinical practices, emphasizing the direct effects of environmental changes on cardiovascular, respiratory, and infectious diseases. This piece serves as a critical resource for medical professionals aiming to enhance patient care in the face of evolving environmental conditions.

Key Points:

  • Climate Change and Health Harms: The emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, contributes significantly to climate change and air pollution, adversely affecting nearly every organ system.
  • Patient Education and Resources: Patients often lack knowledge about the specific health impacts of climate change. However, they are receptive to learning, with many resources available through government and nonprofit organizations to facilitate this education.
  • Cardiovascular Risks: Increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves are linked to higher cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, with conditions like heart failure and ischemia becoming more common during heat exposure, especially in patients with pre-existing cardiac conditions.
  • Medication Management in Heat: Certain medications exacerbate temperature dysregulation or dehydration during heat exposure, necessitating adjustments in medication type and storage to mitigate heat-related health risks.
  • Heat-Related Illness Prevention: Education on recognizing and responding to heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, is crucial for those at risk, particularly when engaging in outdoor activities during peak heat times.
  • Respiratory Health Concerns: Poor air quality, exacerbated by climate change, significantly impacts patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and allergies. Strategies for managing air quality include monitoring local conditions and improving indoor air quality.
  • Infectious Disease Spread: Climate change affects the habitats and behaviors of vectors like mosquitoes and ticks, increasing the risk and spread of vector-borne diseases to new geographical areas.
  • Preventative Measures and Patient Counseling: Clinicians are advised to incorporate strategies into patient counseling to address the risks associated with climate change, including the use of air purifiers, appropriate medication adjustments, and advice on managing environmental exposures.

The number of excess deaths during the 2003 heatwave in Europe was estimated to be 70,000, including around 15,000 people in France alone. The 2018 Japan heatwaves resulted in over 20,000 hospital admissions related to heat stroke, mostly in people aged 65 years or older. (The BMJ)

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