Enjoy Your Menopause!

April 21, 2009

Inhaling a Heart Attack?

In case you haven’t heard, heart disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 40.  We are used to thinking of heart disease as a product of genetic factors or lifestyle choices, such as what we eat and how much we exercise. But now it appears there is another road to heart disease: breathing.

Researchers at the University of Louisville and the University of Michigan say there are a number of studies connecting pollution with heart disease:

• A study of six U.S. cities found that people died earlier when they lived in cities with higher pollution levels. A majority of these deaths were due to heart disease.
• A study of 250 metropolitan areas around the world found a spike in air pollution is followed by a spike in heart attacks.
• A study in Salt Lake City found that when a nearby steel mill shut down for a period of months, there was a 4-6% drop in mortality. The mortality rose to previous levels when the steel mill re-opened.

The people who seem to be most susceptible to environmental pollutants are the people who are already vulnerable, including the elderly and people with coronary artery disease. There is also some evidence that diabetics, women and people who are obese may be at greater risk.

One intriguing statistic is that the risk of heart attack increases in parallel with time spent in traffic the previous day. In animal experiments, researchers found that aldehydes — a toxic class of chemicals found in most forms of smoke, including cigarette smoke and car exhaust — increase blood cholesterol levels and activate enzymes that cause plaque in the blood vessels to rupture. When plaque ruptures, it can cause a blood clot, which may block an artery and lead to a heart attack.

If you live in an area where pollution levels may be high, doctors say you can take steps to reduce the risk of air pollution.  During times when air quality is unhealthy, exercise indoors, because indoor air is filtered. If you exercise outdoors, particularly if you’re at risk for heart disease, do it when pollutants are at lower levels. Avoid peak traffic times.

Advertisements

1 Comment »

  1. Very interesting. I am a cardiac nurse and had not heard of the link to pollution. But it makes sense.

    Would also like to mention that women don’t often have typical symptoms–more likely to present to ER or MD with unexplained fatigue, back pain, Shortness of breath. And more likely to have nonspecific changes in EKG patterns.

    But women also die more often than men from a heart attack, so we need to be in tune with our bodies.

    Comment by Pat Montgomery — April 21, 2009 @ 6:13 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: