Air pollution and heart disease

Cars air pollution

Evidence shows that air pollution can make existing heart conditions worse and can cause heart attacks and strokes amongst vulnerable people. 

Given the large number of people in the UK living with heart disease and the likelihood of their exposure to air pollution, UK governments must do everything they can to meet European Commission targets to improve air quality.

More research is needed to identify the pollutants which cause heart disease – understanding this will allow us to develop ways to reduce them. We are funding research which looks at how air pollution causes abnormalities in the blood vessels. This may help explain the link between heart disease and pollution. 

BHF funded scientists have also investigated the role of facemasks in protecting against the damaging effects of pollution on the heart. Although the research suggests that facemasks may improve some risk factors, there is not currently enough evidence to support the routine use of facemasks in the UK at this time.

As aerobic physical activity is very good for the heart, the benefits of exercising outdoors outweigh the risks associated with air pollution for most people. However, people with heart disease should avoid spending long periods outdoors in areas where traffic pollution is likely to be high. For example, avoiding walking on, or near, busy roads. Local air quality reports could help people to understand when they might be most at risk.

If you would like further information, please read our Policy Statement or email us at [email protected].