Published on March 19 2024

Health impact of heat waves for patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease

The project Hwaves-Neuro received the financial support from Inserm to the Booster Program “Climate Change and Health” to explore the impact of heat waves on the risk of hospitalization and death for patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia.

Hwaves-Neuro : Heat waves risks for neurodegenerative patients in different microclimatic areas.

The Hwaves-Neuro research project received the financial support from Inserm to the Booster Program “Climate Change and Health”.  The project is coordinated by Giovanna Fancello from the NEMESIS team with the collaboration of the CLEPIVIR team with Fabrice Carrat and Jonathan Bellet, and Marc Verny and Dr Géraldine Buard from the Brain-C Lab (Brain compensation dynamics in neurodegenerative diseases laboratory).

During the launch of the Booster Program “Climate Change and Health”, Basile Chaix of the NEMESIS team was appointed scientific coordinator of the programme.

The Hwaves-Neuro project

Neurological diseases are major global causes of death and disability and a public health priority. Although the process of neurodegeneration naturally takes place during the normal aging process, it can be accelerated by various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and dementia with Lewy bodies (LBD). While the rising prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases is extensively documented in the literature, the connection between global warming and the short-term impact of heat waves (characterized by brief periods of exceptionally hot weather spanning two to three days) on the worsening of AD, PD and LBD chronic conditions, remains unclear.

The phenomenon of warming is widespread globally, yet its intensity is not uniform when observed at various scales, ranging from the global level down to the local level.  Urbanization can exacerbate this risk by generating heat islands (ICU) that could lead to increased heat stress for disadvantaged populations with neurodegenerative disorders such as AD, PD and LBD and living in warming-sensitive urban areas. Therefore, factors associated with climate change, such as heat stress and air pollution, could potentially play a role in accelerating the progression of neurodegenerative disorders and increasing the likelihood of emergency hospital admissions and death.

The main objectives of Hwaves-Neuro will be to study whether:

  1. Heatwaves have the potential to intensify the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as AD, PD, and LBD, consequently elevating the risk of emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and mortality.
  2. Microclimatic factors, which are influenced by particular urban attributes (greenness, urban density, …), may amplify these effects, particularly for patients residing in urban areas characterized by the urban heat island phenomenon.
  3. Air pollutants may act as interaction terms within these associations, further influencing the exacerbation of neurodegenerative symptoms and outcomes.