According to the results of a study published in the journal Circulation, heart patients may be at increased risk for complications from currently acceptable levels of air pollution, especially one month after hospital discharge.
According to senior investigator, Dr. Diane Gold, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Ma, “We’re focusing on patients right after they’ve been in the hospital for myocardial infarction and acute coronary syndrome. They’ve received state-of-the-art care, and we’re finding subclinical effects of air pollution, with effects being strong in the first month or so after discharge. It adds to the evidence that traffic and non-traffic air pollution increases cardiac risk.
Past studies have shown that air pollution can trigger heart attacks (MI) from the direct effect of toxins on the heart. The risk is worse a day or two after exposure to high levels of air pollution. Now researchers are also interested in seeing if air pollution affects cardiac patients a month or so after hospitalization for acute MI.
The group studied 48 patients who lived in the Boston area. They observed the patient group for EKG changes by way of Holter monitors, while monitoring air pollution levels 18 km from each patient's home. The researchers noted ST depression (a change in the heart’s electrical signal), indicating a potential heart problem. ST segment depression on an EKG tracing is normally associated with a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle. The participants of this study experienced no adverse events, but the researchers consider the ST depression to be a warning.
Current air pollution standards set by the EPA have been shown to be a health risk, and though they fell within the EPA guidelines during this study, the authors concluded that patients with heart disease would be better protected if air pollution levels were lower – but then, so would we all.
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