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Does Pollution Affect Heart Health?

As we become more aware of the impact we have on the environment, the conversation about air pollution is ever more important. The pollutants released into the air not only have a negative impact on the environment. It is something you are exposed to every day, but you may be surprised by the effects – both short and long term – that pollution has on your heart and heart health.

Exhaust from vehicle clouds the air. Representing air pollution and negative health effects on the heart. The Huntington Heart Center logo at bottom center.

Pollution and Increased Cardiovascular Risk

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. This statistic makes it essential to know what potentially increases that risk. Some of the conditions that increase one’s risk of heart disease are high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, and smoking. Those are the big ones that get the most attention.  But the American Heart Association has warned, on multiple occasions, that pollution has a correlation with increased cases of cardiovascular disease and death.

Recent studies have revealed that there is a link between air pollution and atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries. This buildup can go unnoticed for a long time until it eventually causes a blood clot, heart attack, or stroke. Over the shorter-term, the effects of air pollution can be seen in people already struggling with atherosclerosis, as it speeds up the plaque buildup and increases the risk of heart attack. Pollution is also thought to have an inflammatory effect on the heart, leading to a number of cardiovascular problems.

Overall, air pollutants can cause irreversible damage to the cardiovascular system that increase risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and, in some cases, death. The elderly or those with preexisting health conditions face a higher risk of experiencing the negative effects of pollution. However, children and younger adults that are consistently exposed to pollution over their lifetimes may increase their risk of cardiovascular disease later on in life as well.

The Bottom Line

As more and more studies are being conducted to examine the effects of pollution on the human body, be aware of the risks you may face. Try to research common pollutants and try to avoid an unnecessary exposure. Remember, many studies show that indoor air quality is often worse than the outdoors. Of course, you can always talk to you doctor about reducing your risk of pollution-related heart conditions. And if exposure to pollutants is unavoidable because of where you live or work, speak to your cardiologist about how to improve other aspects of your lifestyle to compensate.

If you or someone you love is concerned about their heart health, reach out to us today. Huntington Heart Center has experienced heart doctors that are here to make sure you and your heart are working at peak condition.