Pollution a Danger to Your Heart

Chronic exposure linked to increased cardiovascular disease death rates

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THURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Air pollution can threaten your heart, says a new Greek study.

"Chronic exposure to air pollution has been associated with various health-related illnesses; however, few studies have related air pollution to cardiovascular disease," lead author Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos, a biostatistician and epidemiologist at the University of Athens School of Medicine, says in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues collected daily values of primary air pollutants -- smoke, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide -- in the greater Athens area from 1992 to 1997. They also gathered data about the number of deaths due to heart disease and strokes over the same period.

The study found a significant positive association between several air pollutants and cardiovascular disease (CVD). In particular, the study found that every 10 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m3) increase in carbon monoxide (CO) was associated with a 46 percent increase in CVD deaths.

For every 10 mg/m3 increase in sulfur dioxide, there was a 5 percent increase in CVD deaths. For every 10 mg/m3 increase in black smoke, there was a 4 percent increase in CVD deaths.

The average number of CVD deaths in Athens over the study period was 35 per day. An increase of one unit in CO levels might result in two more CVD deaths per day, or more than 700 a year, Panagiotakos says.

He adds that CO levels roughly explained 3 percent of the CVD deaths recorded during the study period.

"Our findings about CO are important because levels of CO are a very good indicator of primary pollution. In Athens, as well as in many other cities, the basic pollution source is traffic, and the most characteristic pollutant from traffic is CO," Panagiotakos says.

The findings were presented this week at the American Heart Association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about air pollution and your health.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 11, 2003

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