Even low air pollution may alter heart's structure | heart | heart disease

Living near busy roads linked to heart damage

Living near busy roads linked to heart damage

"What is particularly worrying is that the levels of air pollution, particularly PM2.5, at which this study saw people with heart remodelling are not even deemed particularly high by the UK Government - this is why we are calling for the World Health Organization guidelines to be adopted".

Future studies will focus on evaluating people long-term to determine whether they do in fact go on to develop functional heart failure at higher rates.

These changes in the structure of the heart have a strong association with high exposures to pollutants. Researchers called on the government to reduce air pollution more quickly.

Average annual exposure to small air pollution particles was 8 to 12 μg per m3, within guidelines of 25 μg per m3, and W.H.O guidelines are 10 ug per m3.

"Nay Aung and colleagues supports an observation made in a large clinical research study known as the MESA Air Study carried out in the US and funded by the EPA and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute that long-term exposure to the near road environment appears to affect the structure of the heart", Cascio added.

A study of 4,000 people in the United Kingdom found those who lived by loud, busy roads had larger hearts on average than those living in less polluted areas.

The overall risk of pollution-related diabetes is tilted more toward lower-income countries such as India that lack the resources for environmental mitigation systems and clean-air policies, Lancet Planetary Health report said.

Researchers also looked at the pollution levels in the areas they lived in.

The Strategy commits to halving the number of people in the United Kingdom living in areas where PM2.5 levels exceed WHO guidelines (10 μg per cubic metre) by 2025, but ultimately the charity would like to see this action go further to reduce the health impacts of toxic air as quickly as possible.

Ventricle reshaping is apparent in the early stages of heart failure, as they are crucial pumping chambers to the heart. For every 1 extra µg per cubic metre of PM2.5 and for every 10 extra µg per cubic of NO2, the heart enlarges by approximately 1%.

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In the study, average annual exposures to PM2.5 (8-12 microgramme per cubic metre) were well within United Kingdom guidelines (25 per cubic metre), although they were approaching or past World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines (10 microgramme per cubic metre).

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF said: "We can't expect people to move home to avoid air pollution - Government and public bodies must be acting right now to make all areas safe and protect the population from these harms".

"There is no safe limit for air pollution for me, or for anyone who is concerned about their heart health - we all need the Government to do more".

Air pollution has become the largest environmental risk factor that is linked to several deaths in England.

According to Cascio, "near road environments" - houses not in urban cities but near a busy roads - can also have an effect on heart health and blood vessel structure and function.

But he said it "can't tell us everything".

"Suppose that people whose heart health is worse because of some of these factors also are more likely to live in places where air pollution is high".

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the United Kingdom, and requires collective action to tackle it".

"By ending the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040, we are also acting faster to tackle air pollution than nearly every other major developed economy".

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