The Connection between Air Pollution and Heart Attacks

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Air quality alerts have become a regular feature of weather forecasts. Both natural and manmade factors can contribute to air pollution, and some days the high concentration of air pollutants can result in poor air quality. The air we breathe is central to our wellbeing, and bad air quality can negatively impact heart health.

Long Term Exposure Threatens Cardiovascular Health

Pollution sources can range from traffic to factories to wildfires, although the pollutants that pose the greatest risks to cardiovascular health come from fuel combustion. Pollution particles can enter the lungs and irritate the heart’s blood vessels.

Researchers believe that pollution causes inflammation in the heart, which can result in chronic cardiovascular problems.
Long-term exposure to pollutants has been linked to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and heart failure.

Increased Risk for People with Heart Disease

The elderly and people with pre-existing heart conditions such as atherosclerosis or heart disease are at greater risk for the acute effects of air pollution. In atherosclerosis, the arteries are narrowed due to a buildup of plaque. Air pollutants cause further blockage, which may lead an artery to rupture and cause a heart attack. For older adults and those who already have poor cardiovascular health, even short-term exposure to air pollution can be dangerous.

Protecting Your Heart Health

Reducing your exposure to air pollution is one of the most important things you can do to improve your heart health. The elderly and those with heart conditions should remain indoors on days when air pollution is high. Avoiding jobs that are associated with excessive exposure to pollutants, such as working in traffic, can also greatly decrease your risk for developing heart disease. Consult with your doctor to learn what you can do to support your cardiovascular health.