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Stanford University School of Medicine

Study shows air pollution may increase heart attack risk more than drug use


The mixture of tiny particles, chemicals and gases in the air generated by traffic, power plants and other sources is a major culprit of heart attacks, according to findings published today in the Lancet.

In the study (subscription required), researchers ranked the relative contributions of 14 triggers for heart attacks in the general public including alcohol use, anger, physical exertion and cocaine. Results showed air pollution topped the list of triggers. A HealthDay News story further explains the findings:

In terms of risk, the team found that air pollution increased a person's risk of having a heart attack by just under 5 percent. In contrast, coffee increased the risk by 1.5 times, alcohol tripled the risk, and cocaine use increased the odds for heart attack 23-fold.

However, because only a small number of people in the entire population are exposed to cocaine, while hundreds of millions are exposed to air pollution daily, air pollution was estimated to cause more heart attacks across the population than cocaine.

The study is the latest in a growing body of research on air quality and heart health. An analysis by the American Heart Association of dozens of recent studies concluded long-term exposure to elevated concentrations of fine particulate matter further increases cardiovascular risk and reduces life expectancy probably by several months to a few years for those with higher exposures. Click here to learn more about the air quality in your region.

Previously: New insight into asthma-air pollution link, Chronic disease: Genes matter, but so does environment and Continuing pollution restrictions used during Beijing Olympics could reduce cancer rates
Photo by Ken Banks

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