-- Robert Preidt
SATURDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of particulate
air pollution -- commonly known as smog -- raise the risk of heart
attack and other serious heart problems, according to a new
Particulate air pollution refers to tiny particles in the air
known as PM10. The European Union's PM10 safety threshold is 50
micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3), but this study suggests that
the harmful effects of PM10 may occur below that level.
The researchers compared data on average daily concentrations of
PM10 in Brescia, Italy, between 2004 and 2007 and daily
hospitalizations for cardiac events during that period.
They found a significant association between PM10 levels and the
number of admissions for heart attack and other acute coronary
syndromes (an umbrella term for conditions where blood supply to
the heart muscle is suddenly blocked), heart failure, worsening
heart failure and heart rhythm disorders.
For every 10-microgram increase in PM10 levels, there was a 3
percent increase in hospital admissions for serious heart problems,
according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation
Saturday at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, in
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
The researchers also found that men and people older than 65
were especially vulnerable to having acute coronary syndromes or
heart rhythm disorders with increasing PM10 levels. In addition,
people who had previously been hospitalized for heart problems were
more likely to be admitted to the hospital with heart problems when
PM10 levels were higher.
"We need to pay particular attention to protecting patients who are older and who have had a previous heart attack or other heart problem, as they are more vulnerable to having another cardiac event," study author Dr. Savina Nodari said in a society news release.
"Previous studies support the hypothesis that air pollution may increase cardiovascular-event rates because PM10 can induce processes that are bad for the heart, including inflammation and coagulation," she added.
Nodari said the current PM10 threshold is too high, and the
cutoff should be reduced to 20 to 30 mcg/m3 or less, "because, like
cholesterol, the risk is continuous -- the higher the levels the
greater the risk. If we can obtain a lower level of PM10 probably
we will lower the risk of heart disease."
The American Heart Association has more about
air pollution and heart disease and stroke.
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