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Stroke risk affected by weather conditions

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The endless string of snow storms and bone-chilling cold have been taking their toll on people’s health all across the nation. Now scientists say that there may be a genuine risk between big daily temperature swings, cold temps and high humidity and a higher rate of stroke.

“Maybe some of these meteorological issues actually serve as a trigger,” stated Judith Lichtman of Yale University, who led a recent study to analyze climate trends and hospital records of millions of Americans along with colleagues from Harvard and Duke Universities.

While the majority of strokes are caused by clogged blood vessels preventing the flow of blood to the brain, as well as high blood pressure, previous studies have also uncovered a “seasonal” trend driving up hospital visits due to the fact that cold weather can cause the vessels to constrict more.

“Extreme weather can also trigger a stress reaction by the body, causing it to release substances that not only ramp up the work of the heart, but make blood stickier and more likely to clot,” stated Dr. Andrew Stemer of Georgetown University (who was not involved in Lichtman’s study).

In the meantime, stroke specialist Dr. Larry Goldstein of Duke, noted that “high humidity may cause dehydration which also elevates the stress on the body and raises the risk for clots.”

Note: According to the American Heart Association, nearly 800,000 people in the US suffer strokes each year, with the highest rate occurring in winter and the lowest is summer, “with the exception of a small spike in July.”