Exposure to traffic pollution can increase a person’s chance of having a heart attack if they are already at risk, according to new research.
Scientists found that people exposed to traffic pollutants, specifically pollutant particles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), were more likely to have a heart attack one to six hours later. However, no increase in risk was seen after this time. The scientists believe this suggests that car fumes don’t raise a person’s overall risk of a heart attack; rather pollution exposure may bring forward a heart attack (for example, by a few hours) in those already at risk of having a heart attack.
Dr Prerna Sharma at Bupa says, “The health risks associated with pollution have long been known, especially on respiratory health. This research sheds new light on the impact of traffic pollution on heart health. However, this study fails to take into account the environmental and emotional stresses people may experience when they are in, or around, traffic. This may have been as much of a trigger in causing their heart attack as the traffic pollutants themselves. It’s also worth noting that chronic lung conditions caused by pollution can also increase heart disease risk. People who know they are at risk of a heart attack, for example those with coronary heart disease, could try to avoid busy areas where there is heavy traffic. However, it would be far better to take action to try to reduce your risk of having a heart attack in the first place. Stopping smoking, following a healthy balanced diet, exercising, losing excess weight and knowing about any family history of heart problems, will all have a much greater impact on reducing your risk of heart attack than staying indoors.”