Hack, Hack, Heart Attack: Pollution a Major Cause for Myocardial Infarction
Although cocaine raises the risk for a heart attack 24 fold, and air pollution raises the risk only 5 percent, many more people die from heart attacks associated with air pollution because it is so prevalent. Therefore, air pollution and other common causes for heart attacks that affect many people must be recognized and dealt with.
This is the major finding of a new study that took a look at existing research about the causes of heart attacks. Researchers in Belgium pored over 36 studies that dealt with the environmental triggers of heart attacks.
Other risk factors that are prevalent in society were coffee (which raised the risk of a heart attack 1.5 times) and alcohol (3 times the risk).
Pollution, whether dispersed throughout the atmosphere, or encountered while on a commute to work, is encountered by a majority of the American population. Therefore, even a small, elevated risk for a heart attack becomes significant when multiplied to tens of millions of Americans who deal with pollution.
“Although the dangers to one individual at any single time point may be small,” the researchers explained, “the public health burden derived from this ubiquitous risk is enormous.”
When pollution was combined with being stuck in heavy traffic, the two factors combined were shown to be linked to 12 percent of heart attacks. The researchers could not determine the effects that pollution may have played in the traffic-related heart attacks.
In terms of heart attacks that were studied, heavy physical activity was linked to 6.2 percent, negative emotions were linked to almost 4 percent; anger, specifically, was linked to just over 3 percent; a heavy meal was linked to nearly 2.7 percent and sex was linked to 2.2 percent.
Secondhand smoke was not considered in the recent study, but the researchers surmised that the effects of secondhand smoke on the heart are probably about the same as air pollution. They pointed to the fact that in places where smoking is banned in public, the heart-attack rate has declined by an average of 17 percent.
In other words, a cleaner atmosphere and cleaner immediate environment not only help sustainability and quality of life, they directly relate to a healthier population that experiences fewer heart attacks.