Our Worsening Air Quality is Linked With Increasing Rates ofHeart DiseaseWhile nobody likes the stench of foul-smelling air or the uncomfortable sideeffects that may accompany it, theWorld Health Organization considerseven the most undetectable forms of airpollution to be a major risk to health.Pollution has long been linked torespiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. Recently, evidencesuggests there is even a strong association between poor air qualityand heart attacks and stroke.Long-term Pollution Exposure – A Recipe for Heart AttackA study led by a University of Michigan public health researcher(and supported by the University of Washington) just revealed thathigh concentrations of air pollution can lead to an increasedthickening of the inner two layers of the carotid artery. These aretwo very important blood vessels that supply blood to the head, neckand brain. What this means is that long-term exposure to airpollution hardens these arteries, which in turn, leads to heart attackand stroke. The research team also determined that a reduction inexposure to pollution over a period of time meant a slowerprogression of blood vessel thickness. The thickness of bloodvessels in human arteries shows just how much hardening exists inthe body, even in those who don’t seem to have any obvious signs orsymptoms of heart disease.Researchers monitored over five thousand citizens from six differentU.S cities. They took age and lifestyle into consideration andmeasured air pollution levels inside of the participant’s houses. Theywere shocked to find that people who were exposed to high levels ofpollution were more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Theparticipants in this study were monitored over three years, and willcontinue to be monitored for seven more years. This will help
researchers distinguish between cases of clinical heart disease andheart disease cases caused by long-term exposure to pollution.The authors of this latest study say their findings help the scientificcommunity further the understanding of how air pollution maycause increases in heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.Even Moderate Pollution is Linked to Heart Attack andStrokeIn the last year, the results of a decade long study were published inthe Archives of Internal Medicine linking moderate air pollution toan increase in the risk of stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. This study, conducted inBoston, concluded that even moderate exposure to pollutionincreases the risk of stroke by as much as 34 percent.Almost two thousand hospital patients treated for stroke wereexamined for this study. The onset of stroke symptoms in patientswas matched with hourly measurements of air pollution near theirhomes. The research team was able to determine that peak pollutionexposure for stroke patients consistently occurred 12 to 14 hoursbefore the onset of the stroke. The study also determined that blackcarbon and nitrogen dioxide, both associated with automobiletraffic, were heavily linked with stroke risk. Since the moderatepollution testing was only conducted in Boston, which is consideredto be fairly clean, the researchers promote the need for similarstudies to be carried out in other U.S cities.The Air Quality in Your Community – What To Look ForThe air quality index tells you how clean or unclean your air is, andwhat health concerns are associated with different levels ofpollution, including heart disease and stroke. In the United States,the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the daily airquality index, represented by six color levels. The most common aregreen (good), yellow (moderate), and orange (unhealthy for
sensitive groups). On rare occasions, the air quality has been listedas red, which is unhealthy for most citizens. If you already have anexisting health condition, it is best to avoid going outside on orangeor red days.