The Irish Medical Times - Some like it hot, the UN have declared a Code Red for humanity


But while we can see with our eyes the effects of global warming on our surroundings, how does it impact us on a molecular level? And if we can’t handle the heat, where’s the way out of the kitchen?  

In 2016 a young Nigerian scientist from Stanford University, Emmanuel Balogun, wrote about the beginning of the end, a warning cry, a call to action - ‘Global warming and the possible globalization of vector-borne diseases: a call for increased awareness and action’. He pointed to the ‘correlation between global warming and the ease of transmission of infectious diseases’.

5 years after Emmanuel’s warning we are wearing masks playing “Peek-a-boo ICU” with a killer virus. I dug around to see what other predictions are out there about global warming that could impact the essence of who we are. 

In 2019 a group of Chinese researchers studied the impact of climate change on heart patients in their catchy piece ‘Projections of the effects of global warming on the disease burden of ischemic heart disease in the elderly in Tianjin, China’. They found ‘Exposure to heat may induce profound physiological changes...These changes can cause haemoconcentration and overload the function of the heart.’ They concluded ‘The temperature-related disease burden of IHD (Ischemic Heart Disease) in the elderly will be exacerbated by 158.4 to 196.6% in the 2050s and 2070s.” 

According to my back-of-the-napkin maths, this study shows global warming has the potential to triple heart disease over the next 30 years. Should I start grooming my 7 year old now for a career in cardiology? She was 4 when I went into heart failure and assured me at that point “You don’t need doctors Mom, I’ll be your cardi-biologist.” as she flung her pink plastic stethoscope around her neck. ‘Cardi-biology’ - it will be a degree course soon, you heard it here first! 

Back to the back-of-the-napkin, if 1 in 5 Irish people will develop heart failure that is a million people. If we add other heart troubles - heart attacks, cardiomyopathies, arrhythmias, syndromes, congenital defects, artery issues, thromboses, valve disease, vascular disease, the undiagnosed, the fakers and the troublemakers - that’s about half the population with a broken heart! Our hearts aren't the only organ that feels the pressure when we turn up the thermometer, like the good teammates that they are, our kidneys and lungs start to work harder also. So, it might be in everyone’s interest to start feeling the heat. 

Recently, Japanese scientists wrote a paper about ‘Preventing heat illness in the anticipated hot climate of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games’. They talked about ‘wet bulb’ temperatures: heat + humidity. The increase in biosphere temperatures across the world are making it harder for our bodies to regulate heat. Looking at your weather app on your phone to check the temperature isn’t enough anymore, we need to be mindful of the ‘wet bulb’ temperature. A wet bulb of 35℃ marks our upper physiological limit. As everyone knows humans are excellent at shedding heat e.g. sweating (if you ever find yourself on the London Underground in rush hour on a hot day you’ll be surrounded by these excellent shedders).  But when exposed to the 35℃ limit we start to gain heat instead of dispersing it, our organs begin to shut down and after prolonged exposure we expire. No amount of fake tan is going to help you look good if your insides are boiling into a bouillabaisse.  

I learned the in’s and out’s of heat stroke from an Australian Park Ranger when I collapsed in 42℃ dry heat while hiking around Uluru (Ayers Rock) many years ago. It was a while before I got help, there was no shade, I felt incredibly unwell, I couldn’t speak, I honestly thought I was going to die. I was like a sieve, the water I drank pumped immediately out of my body. I was sweating so profusely I remember my husband looked away for help and when he looked back he thought I had doused myself in the water; my clothes were saturated and sweat was teaming so furiously down my face I couldn’t see. 

When I came to life later in the Park Ranger’s shack covered in ice packs I was told I was damn lucky and given the low down on what could have happened - “You nearly died, Darl” (Australians don’t mince their words, or indeed finish words). It had a profound effect on me and for years I was like an extra in a Shakespeare play grabbing strangers elbows from behind and whispering “Beware the sun, for sooth it will forsake you”. 

Aside from whispered warnings and fake tans, what can we genuinely do to stop our metamorphosis into a human casserole?

All is not lost, we can collectively put the brakes on global warming if we stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. We can make personal changes to help in the global effort to shift away from fossil fuels and remove carbon from the air by small changes to our daily lives - cut consumption, reduce waste, be energy efficient, eat less meat and dairy (livestock products are the most resource intensive to produce), look for ways to shrink your carbon profile, and know when to pull the plug. 

Covid has shown we can enact change and mobilize on a mass scale when under threat, well, guess what…

Original article found here - Some like it hot - the UN have declared a Code Red for humanity