Research from Tel Aviv University has found that high pollution levels increase repeat heart attack risk by over 40%.
Air pollution, a serious danger to the environment, is also a major health risk, associated with respiratory infections, lung cancer and heart disease. The research from Tel Aviv University concludes that air pollution impacts cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke, as well as repeat episodes over the long term.
According to Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU’s School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Cardiac patients living in high pollution areas were found to be over 40 percent more likely to have a second heart attack when compared to patients living in low pollution areas.
Dr Yariv Gerber said:
“We know that like smoking cigarettes, 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 cardiac events,”
The study quantified the association between cardiac risk and air pollution and determine the long-term effects on myocardial infarction (MI) patients.
The 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 at the time were under the age of 65. The patients were followed up until 2011, a period of 19 years.
Air quality was measured and analyzed at 21 monitoring stations in areas where the patients lived. Whilst taking into account other contributing 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.
The study found that patients who lived in the most polluted environments 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 than those who lived in areas with 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.
The research suggests not only the need to limit air pollution by industrial emissions and second hand smoke, but also calls for heightened awareness. Doctors should be making their patients aware of the risks of remaining in high pollution areas, suggesting that they work to limit their exposure.