A Breath of Fresh Air? Maybe Not For Your Heart

Pollution heart

February is American Heart Month, calling attention to the leading cause of death in the United States as well as highlighting numerous ways to help keep your heart healthy. But what if simply breathing is detrimental to the health of your heart and putting you at greater risk for a stroke?

Recent studies found that strokes are more likely to happen immediately following 24-hour periods in which air quality drops into the range the Environment Protection Agency considers “moderate.” Researcher Dr. Wallenius, conducted a study of 1,705 stroke cases in the Boston area that encountered various airborne pollutants such as vehicle emissions, particulate matter, black carbon and nitrogen dioxide. Researchers concluded that the odds of having a stroke were 34% higher following a day of “moderate” air quality compared to “good” air quality.

A second study conducted by a team of French researchers provides additional evidence that air pollution may increase cardiovascular risks.  Studies found that higher levels of airborne pollutants, such as the ones from the study in Boston, were associated with a slight increase in the short-term risk of having a heart attack. According to Dr. Hazrije Mustafic, one of the French researchers, it is a more crucial matter because it is happening all around the world. She concluded that although an increase in carbon dioxide levels only raise an individual’s short-term heart attack risk by 5%, it can still contribute to 4.5% of all heart attacks in the exposed population.

Both Wallenius and Mustafic agree that people who are already at high risk of stroke or heart attack should stay clear of highly polluted areas and try to lessen their daily exposure to very high levels of pollution. Individuals need to be observant to their health on a daily basis to help keep their hearts happy and healthy.

For more information about the link between air quality and heart health: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/15/health/air-pollution-stroke-heart-attack-risk/index.html