MONDAY, March 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A spike in hospitalizations for a dangerous low-salt condition is the latest in a growing list of climate change-related health threats.
According to a Swedish study, an average increase in global temperature of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit could lead to a 14% increase in hospitalizations for extremely low blood sodium levels, a condition called hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia can be caused by diseases such as heart, kidney, and liver failure, as well as excessive sweating or fluid intake that dilutes sodium (salt) concentrations in the blood.
Sodium is needed to maintain normal blood pressure, support nerve and muscle function, and regulate water balance in and around cells. A significant drop in blood sodium levels can trigger nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps, seizures, and even coma.
Cases of hyponatremia increase during the summer months, but the impact of warming temperatures due to climate change was unclear.
To find out more, researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden, analyzed nine years of data on Swedish adults and identified more than 11,000 hospitalizations for hyponatremia. Most were women. Their median age was 76, meaning half were older and half were younger.
The risk was almost 10 times higher on the hottest days than on the coolest days, with women and the elderly having the highest odds. People aged 80 and over were 15 times more likely to be hospitalized for hyponatremia during heat waves.
Cases were largely stable from 14 to 50 degrees F but increased rapidly when the temperature exceeded 59 degrees F.
The researchers applied the data to a model predicting global warming of 1.8 to 3.6 degrees F, which is in line with projections for 2050 from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The results showed that hospital admissions due to hyponatremia could increase by 6.3% with a 1.8°F increase and 13.9% with a 3.6°F increase, according to the study recently published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“Our study is the first to provide precise estimates of how temperature influences the risk of hyponatremia, findings that could be used to inform health care planning to adapt to climate change,” said the first author Buster Mannheimer, assistant lecturer in the department of Karolinska. Clinical sciences and education. He spoke in a press release from the institute.
“We think these estimates are quite conservative, as we didn’t take into account secondary diagnoses of hyponatremia, extreme weather events, or an aging population,” said study co-author Jonatan. Lindh, associate professor of laboratory medicine. “Without adaptation measures, this suggests that over the coming decades, rising global temperatures alone will increase the burden of hyponatremia on health systems.”
The National Kidney Foundation has more on hyponatremia.
SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, press release, March 8, 2022
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