The National Institutes of Health writes that heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If this blood flow is not rapidly restored, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Heart attacks are a major killer of both men and women in the United States. The good news is that excellent treatments are possible for heart attacks. Treatment for heart attack works best when it's given right after symptoms occur. In a news release today, Feb. 20, 2013, the European Society of Cardiology has reported, Exposure to air pollution is associated with increased deaths after heart attacks.
In the largest study yet to investigate the association between fine air-borne particulate matter (PM) and patient survival after hospital admission for acute coronary syndrome (ACS), it was found death rates increased with increased exposure to PM2.5, or tiny particles that measure 2.5 micrometers (μm) in diameter or less, which is approximately 30 times smaller than a human hair. The main sources of PM2.5 are generally emissions from road traffic and industry, including power generation. Dr Cathryn Tonne, who is a lecturer in environmental epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has said, “We found that for every 10µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 there was a 20% increase in the death rate. For example, over one year of follow-up after patients had been admitted to hospital with ACS, there would be 20% more deaths among patients exposed to PM2.5 levels of 20 µg/m3, compared to patients exposed to PM2.5 levels of 10µg/m3.”
There has been evidence emerging that exposure to air pollution is associated with the development of heart disease. However, so far, few studies have investigated its effect on survival after heart attacks, and the findings have been inconsistent. Furthermore, it is known that patients from poorer backgrounds often live in more deprived areas with higher levels of air pollution and that they tend not to do as well after a diagnosis of heart problems as patients of a higher socioeconomic status. Dr Tonne has said, "The implication is that while reducing levels of PM2.5 will lead to increased life-expectancy and is an important public health priority, it isn’t likely to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in prognosis very much. There are likely to be many other factors that are more important than PM2.5 exposure in explaining socioeconomic inequalities in prognosis, and this requires further investigation.”
Meanwhile, Professor Pier Mannucci, Scientific Director of the IRCCS Ca’ Granda Maggiore Policlinico Hospital Foundation in Milan, Italy, has written, “The most important message is that reduction in the amount of pollutants in metropolitan areas does indeed decrease cardiovascular mortality within a time interval as short as a few years…” He has also said that the “huge toll of deaths…worldwide owing to air pollution could be substantially reduced – by approximately one million annually from the current estimate of 1.34 million – if the World Health Organization recommendations pertaining to the limits of PM2.5 concentrations were implemented. The responsibility for controlling air pollution rests on national governments of the planet….”