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Could the Weather Affect Your Stroke Risk?

Study suggests stroke hospitalizations and death rates tied to changes in temperature and humidity

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Temperature and dew point were pulled from the U.S. National Climatic Data Center and linked to stroke discharges at the county level. Factors such as region, season, age, gender, race and patient health issues (such as diabetes and high blood pressure) were considered in the analysis of the data.

This study isn't the first to suggest a relationship between weather and stroke risk, Lichtman said. She said other studies done in Europe and Japan have shown seasonal associations for weather and stroke.

Lichtman suggested that people at risk of stroke who are living in a region with extreme weather fluctuations might want to minimize their exposure to the extremes. That might be as simple as staying indoors with air conditioning on a hot day or ensuring ample heating when it's especially cold outside, she said.

Fluctuating or extreme weather conditions should also raise alertness for the signs and symptoms of stroke, Lichtman said.

For his part, Stecker said the research will have a minimal impact on managing stroke risk.

"I'd tell a patient to not even think about it. People have enough anxiety already," he said. It's more important to focus on other risks, such as diet, weight, blood pressure, exercise and whether they take a statin to treat high cholesterol, he said.

Lichtman said she wants to do more research to better understand whether there is a more defined cause-and-effect relationship between weather and stroke risk, and explore the cause in more depth. "Understanding the reasons for the associations between weather conditions and stroke could lead to the development of targeted preventive interventions," she said.

Lichtman, who is married to a musician, said she knows firsthand how weather can affect us. "My husband's violin responds to extreme weather temperatures and humidity all the time," she said.

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