BHF responds to new research that reveals how air pollution causes heart attacks and strokes

13 April 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

Air pollution levels in UK

New research by the University of Washington, Seattle has found that air pollution causes heart attacks and strokes by damaging our 'good’ cholesterol, with women suffering even more than men.

This is the first large observational study to suggest a link between air pollution and cholesterol. 

What we said

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, our Medical Director, said: “There is an urgent need to fund more research that looks in to the dangerous effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system. This silent killer is related to 40,000 deaths in the UK each year, with eight in ten caused by a heart attack or stroke.

“This is an interesting study showing an association between higher air pollution and lower levels of HDL-cholesterol, often called ‘good cholesterol’. The effects are small and recent studies have questioned whether lower levels of HDL-cholesterol cause heart disease. Furthermore, air pollution causes a myriad of changes in the body - for example it also increases blood pressure  - and therefore it is difficult to know how much contribution, if any, the observed difference in HDL-cholesterol makes to the risk associated with air pollution. 

“This means it is still too early to say how these findings might fit in to the wider picture, but the underlying message is the same: air pollution poses a serious risk to heart health.”

What we’re doing about air pollution

The World Health Organisation estimate that three million people die as a result of air pollution. In the UK, 40,000 deaths are related to air pollution each year and on average it takes six months off the lives of every single person here.

The BHF is currently funding over £1.7 million pounds of research into air pollution at the University of Edinburgh – a BHF Centre of Research Excellence

Find out more about our research