Tropical systems pose an increased risk for people with cardiovascular disease

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Tropical systems have multiple impacts — on land, infrastructure and people. Since the deadliest part of a storm is water (rainfall, flooding, storm surge, etc.), there are other and sometimes more hidden threats – especially for people with cardiovascular disease.

Meteorologist Kristen Currie spoke to a doctor at the American Heart Association to learn more.

Below is a transcript of their conversation. Changes have been made for clarification.

Kristen Currie, KXAN News: As we approach summer, here in central Texas we are particularly aware of two things: wildfires and possible tropical systems. Today I am joined by Dr. Matt Ashley, who serves on the board of directors of the American Heart Association and is chief medical officer at the Center for Neuro Skills. How do tropical systems affect people with cardiovascular problems more than, for example, someone without cardiovascular problems?

dr Matt Ashley, Center for Neuroskills: Well, hurricanes can affect air quality, as can wildfires and other disasters. It is important for people who are stroke survivors and may have a disability to recognize that they have additional needs to prepare for such events. This means they need to ensure their evacuation plans are in place and that their loved ones who may need assistance are able and willing to do so. And then of course, in addition to the same types of evacuation supplies that most people have at home, they may also need additional supplies, such as medicines or medical supplies.

Currie: What I found really interesting is that there was a study that said cardiovascular disease was one of the leading causes of death after Hurricane Katrina, along with drowning. Did that surprise you at all?

Ashley: It might be a bit surprising at first, but if you really think about it, it makes a lot of sense. People who suffer from ongoing chronic diseases related to cardiovascular health truly need ongoing support from our medical systems and those around them. And when that gets disrupted, it can have profound repercussions. Add to this the acute burden of the effects themselves on a person exposing themselves to the risk and that is just the recipe for some unfortunate consequences. Therefore, being prepared ahead of time and recognizing the threat is really the key to minimizing risk.

Currie: dr Matt, Ashley, thank you for being with us today.

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