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The big chill: Low indoor temperatures are linked to higher blood pressure

March 5, 2019

If you are the one in your household who surreptitiously turns the heat down in order to save a little “cold cash,” think again. You soon could be paying the difference at the pharmacy.

It turns out that, while keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees (F) or lower during the daytime might reduce your financial burden, it could be straining your cardiovascular system. A recent study has linked cooler indoor temperatures to higher blood pressure.

According to a report by Study Finds, researchers at the University College London recently determined that for every one degree Celsius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) decrease in indoor temperature, systolic blood pressure rises by an average of 0.48 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure jumps about 0.45 mmHg. Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats, whereas diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in between beats. A blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg is considered normal.

“Our research has helped to explain the higher rates of hypertension, as well as potential increases in deaths from stroke and heart disease, in the winter months, suggesting indoor temperatures should be taken more seriously in diagnosis and treatment decisions, and in public health messages,” notes senior author Dr. Stephen Jivraj, of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, in a media release, adding, “Among other diet and lifestyle changes people can make to reduce high blood pressure, our findings suggest that keeping homes a bit warmer could also be beneficial.”

For the study, Dr. Jivraj’s team, evaluated data from 4,659 participants in the Health Survey for England. Individuals completed questionnaires on their general health and lifestyle choices; then, nurses followed up on the questionnaire by visiting the participants in their homes to measure their blood pressure and take indoor temperature readings. They found that average blood pressure for residents in the coolest homes was 126.64/74.52, whereas those in the warmest homes averaged 121.12/70.51 mmHg.

Researchers had to account for other factors such as social deprivation and outdoor temperature to identify independent associations between blood pressure and indoor temperature. The effect was especially notable in people who were less physically active.

Though the authors didn’t pinpoint a temperature for a “warm enough home,” they do suggest that 21 degrees (C) or about 70 degrees (F), is ideal.

“We would suggest that clinicians take indoor temperature into consideration, as it could affect a diagnosis if someone has borderline hypertension, and people with cooler homes may also need higher doses of medications,” says co-author Hongde Zhao.

The study was published in the Journal of Hypertension.

Research contact: @uclnews