Cardiovascular Disease

Heating Up: Two Heart Medications May Increase Risk


Antiplatelet medications and beta blockers can improve survival and quality of life for people with cardiovascular disease. But those protections may come with added risk on hot summer days.

A study published in Science found that a disproportionate number of people who suffer non-fatal heart attacks during hot weather are taking antiplatelet or beta blocker medications. 

Researchers analyzed 2.5k cases in which a non-fatal heart attack occurred during hot weather. Heat-associated MI events were more common among those taking the heart drugs:

  • Antiplatelet medication users had a 63% increased risk.
  • Beta-blocker users had a 65% increased risk.
  • People taking both drugs had a 75% higher risk.
  • Non-users were not more likely to have a heart attack on hot days. 

Importantly, the authors do not claim that these medications cause heart attacks, noting that patients who take these prescriptions are likely doing so because they are more susceptible to cardiac events.  

Even so, a clue indicates that the heart drugs may indeed be partly to blame. Younger patients (25 to 59 years) had lower rates of coronary heart disease than older participants (60 to 74 years), yet younger patients taking beta-blockers and antiplatelet medications were still more susceptible to heat-related heart attacks.

The authors speculate that the medications may make it harder for people to regulate their body temperature, but future research will be necessary to investigate this. 

The Takeaway

Two groups of heart medications – beta blockers and antiplatelets – could potentially place patients at a higher risk of heat-related heart attacks. As temperatures continue to creep up globally, the risk associated with these medications may become even more pronounced. 

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