Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
According to the American Heart Association, “studies have demonstrated a consistent risk for cardiovascular events in relation to both short- and long-term exposure to present-day concentrations of ambient particulate matter.”
Increasingly, investigators both in the United States and abroad have shown relationships between exposure to short and long term exposure to particulate air pollution and the increased risk of myocardial infarction, referred to as heart attack, and other forms of coronary heart disease. A number of studies have reported associations between air pollution and hospitalizations for heart attacks and other forms of heart disease. For example, researchers have demonstrated increases in heart attack hospitalization rates in relation to fine particles (PM2.5) particularly in sensitive groups, such as the elderly, patients with pre-existing heart disease, survivors of heart attack, or people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Several factors can be involved in the increased risk for heart attacks. These factors can include health, lifestyle, and environment. Increases in air pollution have been linked to decreases in lung function and increases in heart attacks. High levels of air pollution according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index directly affect people with asthma and other types of lung or heart disease. Overall air quality has improved in the last 20 years, but urban areas are still a concern. The elderly and children are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.
The level of environmental risk for heart attacks depends on several factors including the amount of pollution in the air, a person’s exposure to the air pollution, and overall health.
Other risks include conditions and behavioral factors, such as:
- high blood cholesterol levels,
- high blood pressure,
- exposure to tobacco smoke,
- poor diet,
- physical inactivity,
- obesity, and
- drinking too much alcohol.
Heart disease can run in the family. Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other vascular conditions. However, people with a family history of heart disease likely share common environments and risk factors that may increase their risk.
For more information, see the CT DPH Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program page.