Can heart attack be triggered by air pollution? Know from a health expert | Health - Hindustan Times

Can heart attack be triggered by air pollution? Know from a health expert

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Dec 31, 2021 06:47 PM IST

Can air pollution affect our heart health and blood circulation? Here's what studies and a senior cardiologist has to say

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow, which brings oxygen to the heart muscle, is reduced or obstructed due to the blocking or severely narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart. The signs of it may include chest pain, breathlessness, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, upper body pain or dizziness.

Can heart attack be triggered by air pollution? Know from a health expert (Pixabay)
Can heart attack be triggered by air pollution? Know from a health expert (Pixabay)

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 17.9 million people died from Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke. We often picture a heart attack as grimacing from the extreme chest pain and clutching our chest but few know that heart attacks are silent too and symptoms in women may sometimes be different from men.

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As per the British Heart Foundation, “Air pollution can affect your heart and circulation by damaging the inside walls of your blood vessels, causing them to become narrower and harder, restricting the movement of your blood vessels, which can increase your blood pressure and add to the strain on your heart, making your blood more likely to clot, affecting the normal electrical functioning of your heart which could cause abnormal heart rhythms and causing small changes to the structure of the heart like those that are seen in the early stages of heart failure.”

In a report by Physicians For Social Responsibility, it was revealed that, “air pollutants contribute to serious, even fatal damage to the cardiovascular system and air pollution is a factor that you can’t control just through healthy lifestyle.” It added, “Harmful air pollutants lead to cardiovascular diseases such as artery blockages leading to heart attacks (arterial occlusion) and death of heart tissue due to oxygen deprivation, leading to permanent heart damage (infarct formation).”

Asserting the same, Dr Santosh Kumar Dora, Senior Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai shared, “Worldwide, exposure to air pollution has been estimated to account for 16% of deaths from ischemic heart disease and 11% of deaths from stroke. There is also evidence on air pollution leading to increased incidence of diabetes and neurodegenerative disease. In a large-scale prospective study in women, living within 50 m of a major roadway increased the risk of sudden cardiac death by 38% compared with living ≥ 500 m away. These studies show the impact of rising air pollution and cardiovascular disease burden and death.”


Cautioning that exposure to air pollution can rapidly deteriorate the health in some heart patients, where the lungs are also congested, Dr Santosh spilled the beans on a few measures. He stated, “Residence should be located far from factories, major roadways. Wearing face masks and installing air purifiers at homes. Avoid commutes during rush hour. Use indoor air purifiers and closing windows, air conditioners.”

Though the government has currently made it mandatory to wear a face mask while going out of home amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Santosh suggested that he safest mask to filter out coronavirus is the N-95 mask. He claimed, “Coronavirus measures approximately 0.125 micron. So the N-95 mask will be very useful to filter out the PM2.5 and PM 10 particles very effectively."

Studies have shown triple layer surgical masks and multi-layered cotton masks also are effective to prevent coronavirus spread. As N-95 masks are costly, these masks are cheaper options. All these masks which protect us from Covid-19, also will be useful to protect us from PM 2.5 and PM 10 air pollutant particles and prevent heart health from deteriorating.


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