The climate crisis threatens health: the cry from a cardiologist’s heart

I am a specialist in cardiology and have been working with seriously ill patients for 30 years. For me, there is an urgent need to treat the problem in advance and really prevent it. The climate crisis should be addressed alongside exercise prevention, optimal blood pressure control, diabetes prevention and smoking cessation.

The climate emergency is a public health problem. It is imperative for us and for our future generations to incorporate it into prevention now.

We have all been mesmerized and numbed by COVID since March 2020. Our vigilance towards our planet Earth has greatly decreased. We hardly talk about the problem that is the climate emergency. However, this problem is real and growing. Every effort is required to mitigate this threat. Health and heart are threatened. Global warming is endangering several already vulnerable patients who are weakened by poor genetics and/or poor lifestyles.

Even before climate change hit us hard in Quebec, heart failure was on the rise due to the aging population. By 2021, the cost of heart failure was more than double the cost of all cancers combined. It is the most expensive condition for our healthcare system.

With more and more scientific press releases being published and peer-reviewed, one thing is clear: heat waves and poor air quality increase the risk of developing and/or worsening existing heart disease. Today, global warming is a silent killer. When will we deign to hear it?

Global warming contributes significantly to urban pollution. The microparticles suspended from this pollution have a very damaging effect on our arterial system and heart. These microparticles have been increasing rapidly for years and are the subject of numerous symposiums and scientific publications.

There is no debate or poll on this subject. There is agreement: these particles are for heart patients. If we add high blood pressure and diabetes, almost half of the population over the age of 65 would have heart disease.

Also, the increase in airborne microparticles during periods of smog has been clearly linked to heart attacks, sudden death and hospitalizations in patients with chronic cardiac and respiratory diseases. This situation is making our cities less and less livable and is the cause of growing psychosocial stress.

As a cardiologist, I see that our clinics are full of heart patients who are anxious in their everyday lives and have a significantly reduced quality of life. Sessions on climate and health are now on the agenda at the largest international congresses. How come climate is not on our governments’ health agendas? Are we up to it?

Even though I’m a childless man, I want future generations to be proud of us. I want us to excel as a society. It is often too late to prevent the devastating effects of a poor living environment combined with multiple risk factors. Our healthcare system just manages to stay afloat. We need to raise awareness, get moving and advocate for a global approach to health, and that includes the environment!

For this reason, I invite my sisters and brothers in the health sector to join me and the mothers on the frontline, May 8th in the streets of Quebec, to urge our governments to listen to the science and act.

Together everything is possible!

With kind approval

Michel White MD, Cardiologist, Montreal Heart Institute, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Montreal

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