US News logo

A graphic representation of a chronically affected kidney.

August 19, 2019

As climate change is predicted to increase the number of extremely hot days that occur each year, those with advanced kidney disease could face heightened risk of hospitalization and even death, a new study from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health found. 

U.S. News & World Report interviewed Amir Sapkota, a professor of applied environmental health, and Richard Remigio, a third-year doctoral student, to explain the team’s findings in an article published August 9.

"Climate change is not just about future scenarios and distant communities. It is here and now, and it is adversely impacting our community's health in more ways than we realize," said Sapkota, a co-author of the study.

Researchers examined more than 7,000 cases from kidney disease clinics in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia and compared them with extreme heat events in the years 2001 to 2012. 

They found that of the kidney clinic patients, the rate of hospitalization and death during extremely hot days increased for black and white patients, as well as those with other health conditions, like congestive heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

The findings were less conclusive for Hispanic and Asian patients.

According to Sapkota, "Ongoing climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme heat events. Our results show that these events are particularly harmful to the most vulnerable individuals in our communities."

The increased risk is possibly due to one of the body’s reactions to heat. As the temperature rises, the heart works harder to pump blood to the skin. The heat from the blood is transferred to the air through sweat.

But over time, sweating lowers the amount of fluid in the body. Strain on the heart from circulating blood pairs with dehydration to cause a drop in blood pressure.

While high blood pressure can strain the kidney’s arteries, leading to kidney failure, other studies have found that low blood pressure rates can also have adverse effects on patients with chronic kidney disease.

The study recommended community-specific strategies to adapt to heat and protect the public, including those with kidney disease.

"We need to ramp up our ability to cope with these increases in extreme heat events,” said study author Remigio. “This is our canary in the coal mine.”

Related Links

U.S. News & World Report Article

Research study: Association of Extreme Heat Events With Hospital Admission or Mortality

Related People
Amir Sapkota, Richard Remigio, Chengsheng Jiang