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Heart Disease & Stroke

​The cardiovascular system delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body's tissues. It also removes waste from tissues via the circulation of blood. The heart acts as the pump for this system, pushing blood through vessels to the lungs and tissues. Diseases of the heart, such as heart attack and stroke, disrupt its pumping function. This can greatly reduce overall health. 

​​Why is this important?

Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) are the number one killer of Americans. According to a report from the American Heart Association, each year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these 525,000 are a first heart attack and 190,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Furthermore, about 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.

What is known?​

Environmental factors can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, studies have shown an increased risk of heart attack and stroke events in relation to exposure to air pollution. Researchers in the United States and abroad have shown that hospital stays for heart attacks and coronary artery disease increase in relation to particles in the air (PM 2.5). This trend is more common within sensitive groups such as older adults, those with heart conditions, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Who is at risk?​

Risk factors for heart attack include:
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Exposures to environmental contaminants
Environmental air pollution also increases the risk of heart attack. Particulate matter air pollution is especially damaging to the heart and lungs. Sources of this type of air pollution include traffic, power plants, industrial combustion, metal processing, and construction activities. There are also natural sources such as windblown soil, forest fires, and molds.

Reduce your risk:

You can reduce the risk of having a heart attack by losing weight, not smoking, exercising regularly, and having a healthy diet. People who are at risk for a heart attack should avoid strenuous activity in areas with elevated particulate air pollution, such as not jogging along a busy street.​​