September 20, 2011

Air pollution linked to heart attack risk

TrafficScientists co-funded by us have discovered that some types of air pollution can help ‘trigger’ a heart attack.

The researchers, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, looked at the records of almost 80,000 patients who had suffered a heart attack in 15 areas around the UK. The areas included London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Cardiff, and Southampton.

The scientists looked at local levels of traffic pollution in each area. They showed that the chance of having a heart attack increased in the six hours after exposure to pollutants.

Our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said:

We know that pollution can have a major effect on your heart health

“This large-scale study shows conclusively that your risk of having a heart attack goes up temporarily, for around six hours, after breathing in higher levels of vehicle exhaust.

“We know that pollution can have a major effect on your heart health, possibly because it can ‘thicken’ the blood to make it more likely to clot, putting you at higher risk of a heart attack.

“Our advice to patients remains the same – if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, try to avoid spending long periods outside in areas where there are likely to be high traffic pollution levels, such as on or near busy roads.”

The findings were published in the British Medical Journal.