Air pollution, a serious danger to the environment, is also a majorhealth risk, associated with respiratory infections, lung cancer and heart disease . Now a Tel Aviv University researcher has concluded that not onlydoes 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 beover 40 percent more likely to have a second heart attack whencompared to patients living in low pollution areas, according toDr. Yariv Gerber of TAU’s School of Public Health at the SacklerFaculty of Medicine.
“We know that like smoking cigarettes,pollution itself provokes the inflammatory system. If you aretalking about long-term exposure and an inflammatory system that isirritated chronically, pollution may well be involved in theprogression of atrial sclerosis that manifests in cardiac events,”explains Dr. Gerber. Done in collaboration with Prof. Yaacov Drory and funded by theEnvironmental and Health Fund in Jerusalem, the research waspresented at the San Diego Epidemiological Meeting of the AmericanHeart Association and the Annual Meeting of the Israeli HeartSociety.
Risking recurrence Air pollution has previously been acknowledged as a factor in heartattack risk, as well as other health risks. The goal of this study,says Dr. Gerber, was to quantify that association and determine thelong-term effects of air pollution on myocardial infarction (MI)patients. Their study followed 1,120 first-time MI patients who hadbeen admitted to one of eight hospitals in central Israel between1992 and 1993, all of whom were under the age of 65 at the time ofadmittance. The patients were followed up until 2011, a period of19 years. Swing Barrier
Air quality was measured at 21 monitoring stations inareas wherethe patients lived, and analyzed by a group of researchers at theTechnion in Haifa. After adjusting for other factors such associo-economic status and disease severity, the researchersidentified an association between pollution and negative clinicaloutcomes, including mortality and recurrent vascular events such asheart attack, stroke and heart failure . Compared to patients who lived in areas with the lowest recordedlevels of pollution, those in the most polluted environment were 43percent more likely to have a second heart attack or suffercongestive heart failure and 46 percent more likely to suffer astroke. The study also found that patients exposed to air pollutionwere 35 percent more likely to die in the almost 20 year periodfollowing their first heart attack than those who were exposed tolower levels of pollution. According to Dr. Parking Barrier Gates
Gerber, the true impact of air pollution might beeven stronger than this study shows. “Our method of assessingexposure does have limitations. Because we are using data frommonitoring stations, it’s a crude estimate of exposure, which mostlikely leads to an underestimation of the association,” he warns.He estimates that air pollution could have double the negativeimpact with more precise measurement. Identifying vulnerable groups The results of the study not only indicate a health benefit for apublic policy that curtails air pollution caused by industrialemissions and second hand smoke, but also call for heightenedawareness by clinicians. Barrier Gates
Doctors should be making their patientsaware of the risks of remaining in high pollution areas, suggestingthat they work to limit their exposure, Dr. Gerber suggests. Another purpose of this study was to begin identifying populationsthat are vulnerable to MI and re-occurring MI. Establishing theconnection between air pollution and long-term risk for patientswith cardiovascular diseases was an important step towards thatgoal. Additional References Citations.