Ever since the Industrial Revolution, there has been an increase in the incidence of heart attack. The reasons for this are multifaceted. An industrial economy allows people to be more sedentary, eat richer foods, and die less from other causes (such as infection). Nonetheless, many have thought that there must be other causes for this increase beyond the way it affects our lifestyle.
A meta-analysis, or study of studies, released this week has confirmed what many cardiologists have feared. Short-term exposure to some of the most common air pollutants (Carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and a group of common airborne particulate matter known as PM) increases the risk for heart attack. Studies have showed this over the long term but proving that there is an increased risk from short exposure suggests that the effect of pollution is real, and not an artifact from the other lifestyle factors of people who live in polluted areas.
Before you decide to pack everything up and leave the city because of this, the increase of this risk to you specifically is very small (less than one half of 1% increase in heart attack risk). This finding is significant, though because that slight increase over the entire population leads to many more heart attacks than would be present if we had cleaner air.
This is more evidence that the condition of our planet is ultimately linked to our personal health. Reducing our impact on Earth will provide us with a healthier environment to thrive in.
Dr. Bruce Feinberg