There is more to heart health than your diet, age, lifestyle choices, and other such individual factors. The air you breathe could be affecting your heart directly. Going by the findings of a recent study, even the slightest decrease in the levels of air pollution could significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The new study analyzed the data of 157,436 participants from 21 countries between the ages of 35 to 70 years old from the long-running Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The team found that irrespective of whether it is in a high-income or low-income country, air pollution can be an important factor contributing to cases of cardiovascular conditions and death. Specifically, for every 10 microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in the concentration of air pollutant particles under 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5), a 5% increase in all cardiovascular events was observed.
This translates to 14% of all cardiovascular events around the world being a result of PM2.5 exposure. Particulate matter that size or under is microscopic and thus considered especially harmful as it easily enters the body and can affect one in multiple ways.
On the positive side, the study found that even small amounts of reduction done in air pollution happening consistently can lead to a decrease in the cases of cardiovascular conditions such as strokes, which was the most common outcome in such cases.
“If you reduce the concentration of outdoor air pollution, you’re going to see benefits for cardiovascular disease. Before this study, we were not sure if this was the case. Some studies suggested that at high concentration, as seen in many developing countries, levels would have to be reduced by very large amounts before health benefits would occur,” said researcher Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist at the Oregon State University.
The results of this study have been published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.