In recent times, the world has witnessed a concerning surge in heart attack cases. This alarming trend has raised questions about the underlying factors contributing to this increase. A heart attack, a life-threatening medical emergency, occurs when a blood clot obstructs the flow of blood to the heart, depriving heart tissues of essential oxygen. The longer it takes to restore blood flow, the greater the damage inflicted on the heart muscles, eventually leading to a heart attack.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) accounted for approximately 17.9 million deaths in 2016, representing 31% of all global fatalities. Within this staggering statistic, heart attacks and strokes contributed to a significant portion, with 85% of CVD-related deaths attributed to these conditions.
While various risk factors can culminate in heart attacks, medical studies have increasingly pointed towards air pollution as a significant trigger for heart attacks, strokes, and irregular heart rhythms, particularly in individuals already susceptible to these conditions.
The Air Pollution Connection:
To shed light on the intricate relationship between air pollution and heart attacks, we engaged in a conversation with Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman & HOD of Cardiology & Structural Heart Disease at BLK-Max Super Specialty Hospital. Dr. Chandra emphasized that individuals with a medical condition known as heart failure face heightened risks when exposed to air pollution. Airborne pollutants, especially fine particulate matter, pose the most substantial threat in triggering adverse cardiac effects. These microscopic particles often hide in haze, smoke, dust, and seemingly clean air.
Who Is at Greater Risk?
Dr. Chandra identified specific groups at a higher risk of suffering heart attacks or other cardiovascular events due to air pollution:
- Individuals with a history of heart disease, including heart attacks, angina, bypass surgery, angioplasty (with or without a stent), stroke, neck or leg artery blockages, heart failure, heart rhythm disorders, diabetes, or chronic obstructive lung disease.
- Men aged 45 years or older and women aged 55 years or older.
- Individuals with a family history of stroke or early heart disease, particularly if a parent or sibling was diagnosed before the age of 55 (for men) or 65 (for women).
- Those with high blood pressure or elevated blood cholesterol levels.
- Overweight individuals or those leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Tips for Protection:
Understanding the risk factors and recognizing symptoms are pivotal steps in averting heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases exacerbated by air pollution. Dr. Chandra emphasizes the importance of regular exercise for maintaining heart health, especially for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions.
By making thoughtful adjustments to the timing and location of physical activity, one can lead a healthier lifestyle while mitigating the risks posed by air pollution. Dr. Chandra provides the following tips to safeguard your heart and overall well-being:
- If you have a history of heart disease or have experienced a stroke, consult your healthcare provider for guidance on protecting your health during periods of poor air quality.
- If you are at risk of heart disease or stroke and plan to engage in vigorous physical activity, discuss your intentions with your healthcare provider to ensure your safety.
- Stay informed about when and where particle pollution levels may reach unhealthy levels to minimize your exposure.
As the correlation between air pollution and heart attacks becomes increasingly evident, taking proactive measures to safeguard your cardiovascular health is imperative. By staying vigilant, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, and seeking guidance from healthcare providers, you can reduce the risks posed by air pollution and pave the way for a healthier, heart-protected future