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Dec 23, 2014

Report Raises Awareness for Health Effects of Air Pollution

A thorough review of studies highlights the negative impact of air pollution on heart health.

Following a thorough review published in the European Heart Journal, experts conclude there is a wealth of evidence linking air pollution to heart disease—the No. 1 killer of Americans. 

It’s estimated that air pollution caused 3.1 million deaths worldwide in 2010, ranking ninth among modifiable disease risk factors across the globe. Many studies have linked three key air pollutants—fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone—to serious short- and long-term health effects. And a review of studies related to heart disease link these pollutants to increased cardiovascular risk.  

Among a long list of health effects, air pollution has been linked to increased risk of heart failure, stroke, abnormal heart rhythm, and heart disease. Not only may air pollution cause or worsen these serious health conditions, it’s also likely that individuals with these conditions are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. 

Experts hope their recent review highlights the life-threatening effects of air pollution on cardiovascular health and brings about new efforts to reduce exposure to air pollution across the globe. In addition, authors urge future research on the issue and provide advice for reducing exposure to airborne pollutants. Authors encourage walking, cycling and public transportation instead of driving a car or motorcycle, and advise against walking or exercising in areas with major traffic, particularly during rush hour. Individuals that are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, like infants, the elderly and patients with heart conditions, should take extra care to avoid spending time outdoors during highly polluted periods.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why would air pollution trigger heart attacks?

  • Although further research is needed to better understand the relationship between pollution and heart attacks, experts believe that short-term exposure to air pollution may trigger inflammation and promote blood clotting, increasing risk for a cardiac event.
  • How can I reduce my exposure to air pollutants?

  • Although it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to any air pollutants, you can check local air quality conditions on the news or weather and try to go outside when air quality conditions are best (often early morning or evening and in cooler temperatures). Also, avoid being outside around traffic-congested streets where pollution can be heavy.

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