Joint press release with the German Meteorological Service

Climate change could cause more heat-related deaths in future

Heat waves raise risk of death in heart patients by up to 15 percent

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Heat waves are only one of the health risks caused by climate change.
Source: knipseline /

Coronary deaths during heat waves rose by an average 10 to 15 percent in the period from 2000 to 2010, says a study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) to the German Meteorological Service (DWD). An assessment of summer 2015 is still outstanding. "In future we expect even more, longer and intensive heat waves in Germany as climate change progresses. If we fail to adapt to this change, this could multiply the number of heat-related coronary deaths by a factor of 3 to 5," said Vice-President of the German Meteorological Service Dr. Paul Becker.

Longer and more intensive periods of heat exert great stress on the cardiovascular system. The study concludes there is a correlation between longer and hotter heat waves and a higher mortality rate. Elderly people and others who suffer certain chronic diseases are especially at risk. "Sudden temperature changes from one day to the next or on the same day are associated with an increased stress on health. Such days will occur more frequently in the future climate. This is why it is important to be prepared for climate change and to contain its impact on health as much as possible", said UBA's President Maria Krautzberger. UBA and DWD anticipate that health stress will increase most noticeably in Germany's already very warm regions in the south and west.

Different ways to be better prepared for heat waves do exist: the DWD's heat health warning system (online and weather app) helps people to adjust to longer periods of heat early on. It is important to adapt to days of extreme heat as well as to the increasing variability in weather. Everybody can do something to better cope with the effects on climate change on health: a healthy and balanced diet, plenty of exercise, alcohol consumption in moderation and not smoking can help to reduce one's personal risk and deal with the increasing stress of weather events. In addition, it is advisable to take purely preventative measures, for example to reduce urban heat islands or improve the preparedness in the health care sector.

This latest study is part of a series of comprehensive analyses of the impact of climate change on humans, the environment and other areas of action which was initiated by the Federal Government as part of Germany's Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS) and the associated action plan. A literature review, a representative survey and studies carried out within the current project proved that certain weather situations result in an increase in health problems and even an increased mortality rate. Most of these weather conditions are likely to occur more frequently in the future.

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 heat wave  heat warning system  climate change  health risk