How Climate Change Can Affect Your Health

How Climate Change Can Affect Your Health

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

There is no doubt, our environment affects our health, and with effects of climate change our planet isn’t the only thing at risk. In fact, a new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now warns of severe consequences if governments don’t make “…rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to reduce global warming.” What does this all mean? In a nutshell:  as temperatures go up, your health may be going down. Here’s some of the ways that climate change may be affecting your health. 

Respiratory issues and stroke

In addition to contributing to global warming and hurting the planet, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide could be causing respiratory problems. Pollutants from fossil fuels, known as particulate matter, can enter your lungs and bloodstream, resulting in decreased lung function, increased risk of stroke, and aggravated asthma. In addition, as the planet warms up, more wildfires occur, the smoke from which can reduce air quality. If you’re wondering why your pollen allergy is getting worse each year, it’s because increases in carbon dioxide can trigger plants to produce more pollen.

Increase in Type 2 Diabetes

According to a study published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care journal, there is a correlation between rising temperatures and an increase in Type 2 diabetes. While it hasn’t been established that higher temperatures necessarily cause the disease, researchers did find that diabetes rates increased and glucose intolerance rose with every degree Celsius of warming in the U.S.

Increase in disease-carrying insects

With global warming come hotter and more humid climates that are ideal breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects such as ticks and mosquitoes. In fact, researchers warn that mosquitoes that carry diseases like West Nile virus and dengue fever actually thrive in conditions that are becoming more common. As such there is concern that malaria could reemerge in the United States, as could increases in the Zika virus and Lyme disease.

Increase in mental health issues

Believe it or not, along with global warming comes an increase in mental health issues. A recent study showed that a warming of even just one degree was linked to an increase in mental health issues. A rise in temperatures from global warming is also correlated with an increase in suicide rates. Although more research is needed to find the exact causes of the increase in suicides, it is plausible that there is a link between temperature and how the brain regulates emotions.

Unsafe kitchen conditions

As temperatures increase, so does the likelihood of salmonella, E.coli, and other foodborne pathogens that thrive in warmer weather. Leaving food out longer can result in a breeding ground of germs and unsafe conditions that can affect your health.

Contaminated water sources and dangerous bacterial infections

Contaminated water, especially in the summertime, is a huge problem. Extreme weather and rainfall can contribute to the spread of bacterial infections through contaminated water that can spread fecal bacteria into the fields where food is growing. Furthermore, when there is flooding, there is a risk of storm water mixing with sewage. This contamination can affect crops, which, in turn, contribute to foodborne illnesses. Animals are more likely to develop heartworm and other infections from contaminated water, and viruses and other pathogens tend to thrive in stagnant waters such as lakes and fountains.

Impacting Marylanders

Thinking of heading to Ocean City this summer? Know that warmer ocean water can result in bacterial contamination in shellfish, plus may make the water more dangerous to swim in. This is especially true if you have open wounds or cuts on your skin that can serve as a gateway for viruses and bacteria to enter your body. 

The doctors and staff at Rockville Concierge Doctors in Rockville have a special relationship with their patients and feel it is their duty to keep their patients up-to-date on anything that can affect their health. If you have any questions about how concierge medical care works, or if you wish to make an appointment, please call our office at (301) 545-1811. If you are an established patient, you can use our secure online appointment request form.