Cardiovascular response to thermoregulatory challenges

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2015 Dec 1;309(11):H1793-812. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00199.2015. Epub 2015 Oct 2.


A growing number of extreme climate events are occurring in the setting of ongoing climate change, with an increase in both the intensity and frequency. It has been shown that ambient temperature challenges have a direct and highly varied impact on cardiovascular health. With a rapidly growing amount of literature on this issue, we aim to review the recent publications regarding the impact of cold and heat on human populations with regard to cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality/morbidity while also examining lag effects, vulnerable subgroups, and relevant mechanisms. Although the relative risk of morbidity/mortality associated with extreme temperature varied greatly across different studies, both cold and hot temperatures were associated with a positive mean excess of cardiovascular deaths or hospital admissions. Cause-specific study of CVD morbidity/mortality indicated that the sensitivity to temperature was disease-specific, with different patterns for acute and chronic ischemic heart disease. Vulnerability to temperature-related mortality was associated with some characteristics of the populations, including sex, age, location, socioeconomic condition, and comorbidities such as cardiac diseases, kidney diseases, diabetes, and hypertension. Temperature-induced damage is thought to be related to enhanced sympathetic reactivity followed by activation of the sympathetic nervous system, renin-angiotensin system, as well as dehydration and a systemic inflammatory response. Future research should focus on multidisciplinary adaptation strategies that incorporate epidemiology, climatology, indoor/building environments, energy usage, labor legislative perfection, and human thermal comfort models. Studies on the underlying mechanism by which temperature challenge induces pathophysiological response and CVD await profound and lasting investigation.

Keywords: cardiovascular; cold; heat; mechanism; vulnerability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology*
  • Climate Change*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Fever / complications*
  • Fever / metabolism
  • Fever / mortality
  • Fever / physiopathology
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / complications*
  • Hypothermia / metabolism
  • Hypothermia / mortality
  • Hypothermia / physiopathology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons*