High air pollution increases risk of repeated heart attacks by over 40 percent

June 5, 2012

Air pollution, a serious danger to the environment, is also a major health risk, associated with respiratory infections, lung cancer and heart disease. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher has concluded that not only does air pollution impact cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke, but it also causes repeated episodes over the long term.

Cardiac patients living in high pollution areas were found to be over 40 percent more likely to have a second when compared to patients living in low pollution areas, according to Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU's School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine. "We know that like , pollution itself provokes the inflammatory system. If you are talking about long-term exposure and an inflammatory system that is irritated chronically, pollution may well be involved in the progression of atrial sclerosis that manifests in ," explains Dr. Gerber.

Done in collaboration with Prof. Yaacov Drory and funded by the Environmental and Health Fund in Jerusalem, the research was presented at the San Diego Epidemiological Meeting of the in March and the Annual Meeting of the Israeli Heart Society in April.

Risking recurrence

Air pollution has previously been acknowledged as a factor in , as well as other health risks. The goal of this study, says Dr. Gerber, was to quantify that association and determine the long-term effects of air pollution on (MI) patients. Their study followed 1,120 first-time MI patients who had been admitted to one of eight hospitals in central Israel between 1992 and 1993, all of whom were under the age of 65 at the time of admittance. The patients were followed up until 2011, a period of 19 years.

Air quality was measured at 21 monitoring stations inareas where the patients lived, and analyzed by a group of researchers at the Technion in Haifa. After adjusting for other factors such as socio-economic status and disease severity, the researchers identified an association between pollution and negative clinical outcomes, including mortality and recurrent vascular events such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

Compared to patients who lived in areas with the lowest recorded levels of pollution, those in the most polluted environment were 43 percent more likely to have a second heart attack or suffer congestive heart failure and 46 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. The study also found that patients exposed to air pollution were 35 percent more likely to die in the almost 20 year period following their first heart attack than those who were exposed to lower levels of pollution.

According to Dr. Gerber, the true impact of air pollution might be even stronger than this study shows. "Our method of assessing exposure does have limitations. Because we are using data from monitoring stations, it's a crude estimate of exposure, which most likely leads to an underestimation of the association," he warns. He estimates that air pollution could have double the negative impact with more precise measurement.

Identifying vulnerable groups

The results of the study not only indicate a health benefit for a public policy that curtails air pollution caused by industrial emissions and second hand smoke, but also call for heightened awareness by clinicians. Doctors should be making their patients aware of the risks of remaining in high pollution areas, suggesting that they work to limit their exposure, Dr. Gerber suggests.

Another purpose of this study was to begin identifying populations that are vulnerable to MI and re-occurring MI. Establishing the connection between and long-term risk for with cardiovascular diseases was an important step towards that goal.

Explore further: Short-term exposure to most major air pollutants associated with increased risk of heart attack

Related Stories

Short-term exposure to most major air pollutants associated with increased risk of heart attack

February 14, 2012
Short-term exposure (for up to 7 days) to all major air pollutants, with the exception of ozone, is significantly associated with an increased risk of heart attack, according to a review and meta-analysis of previous studies ...

High pollution levels linked to increase in heart attack risk

September 20, 2011
High levels of pollution could increase the risk of having a heart attack for up to six hours after exposure, finds research published in the British Medical Journal today.

Recommended for you

Early study shows shoe attachment can help stroke patients improve their gait

December 14, 2017
A new device created at the University of South Florida – and including a cross-disciplinary team of experts from USF engineering, physical therapy and neurology – is showing early promise for helping correct the signature ...

Scientists rewrite our understanding of how arteries mend

December 13, 2017
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered how the severity of trauma to arterial blood vessels governs how the body repairs itself.

Deadly heart rhythm halted by noninvasive radiation therapy

December 13, 2017
Radiation therapy often is used to treat cancer patients. Now, doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that radiation therapy—aimed directly at the heart—can be used to treat patients ...

Ultra-thin tissue samples could help to understand and treat heart disease

December 12, 2017
A new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab could help scientists to study how cells behave inside a beating heart.

Young diabetics could have seven times higher risk for sudden cardiac death

December 12, 2017
Young diabetics could have seven times more risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest than their peers who don't have diabetes, according to new research.

Research reveals how diabetes in pregnancy affects baby's heart

December 12, 2017
Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have discovered how high glucose levels—whether caused by diabetes or other factors—keep heart cells from maturing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.