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Heart Disease Health Center

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Air Pollution Increases Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

Physicians Suggest Limiting Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter

Air Pollution and Heart Disease continued...

The biological associations between air pollution and cardiovascular disease are unclear, but physicians suspect particulate matter triggers inflammation in the blood vessels, which in turn, stymies a healthy blood supply, Brook and colleagues say.

“It’s possible that certain very small particles, or chemicals that travel with them, may reach the circulation and cause direct harm,” Brook says. “The lung nerve-fiber irritation can also disrupt the balance of the nervous system throughout the body. These responses can increase blood clotting and thrombosis, impair vascular function and blood flow, elevate blood pressure, and disrupt proper cardiac electrical activity, which may ultimately provoke heart attacks, strokes, or even death.”

Group: Particle Air Pollution Unsafe

The research team says the current information suggests there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure and that particulate matter should be considered a modifiable risk factor for heart disease.

Based on their findings, the panel recommends:

  • Continued efforts to address other cardiovascular disease risk factors through smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet to mitigate susceptibility to air pollution.
  • Informing people with, or at high risk for, cardiovascular disease of the dangers associated with air pollution and the steps that can be taken minimize exposure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that fine particle air pollution contributes to about 800,000 premature deaths per year, making it the 13th leading cause of worldwide mortality. The WHO estimates that by cutting particulate matter pollution from 70 micrograms per cubic meter to 20, air quality-related deaths could be reduced by about 15%.

The American Heart Association and the Environmental Protection Agency are co-sponsoring a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers about the link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease. The AHA statement and related study results will be published in the June 1 issue of Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association.

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