Air Pollution Linked to Stroke and Heart Disease

Air Pollution Linked to Stroke and Heart Disease

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Ed Yeates ReportingThere's yet another indictment today against the affects of air pollution on public health. This time an American Heart Association study suggests pollution levels may be making people more susceptible to strokes.

This is now the third study published by the American Heart Association linking cardiovascular disease to air.

The latest research looked at hospital admissions in Taiwan's largest industrial city. The caseload for strokes there increased by as much as 54 percent during heavy pollution days. The study also shows that particulate matter or PM10 and nitrogen dioxide or NO2 seem to have the greatest impact. Those two pollutants are higher when outside temperatures are 68 degrees or warmer.

At Brigham Young University, Dr. Arden Pope says he's not surprised with the findings. The epidemiology researcher has been looking at the impact of pollution on public health for the past 15 years.

Dr. Arden Pope, Epidemiology Research, BYU: "I think our research over the past 15 years has indicated a couple of things. Particulate air pollution, even at levels considered quite common in cities throughout the United States, has a health effect on both the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system."

Dr. Pope has two new studies the American Heart Association will publish within the next several months exploring the pathways and the mechanics of how air pollution triggers the development of disease.

He says those pathways appear complex, but specific.

Dr. Arden Pope: "It involves not only changes in lung function, but involves changes in cardiac autonomic function. It involves changes in systemic inflammation. And it involves a number of risk factors of which we never, never anticipated."

Once pollution touches off inflammation, its effects may be far reaching, stressing not only the lungs, but the heart and vessels s well.

The incidence of athersclerosis, high blood pressure, heart arhythmias, ischemic heart disease and stroke may all be the byproduct - in part or in whole - to long term exposure to pollution, even when it occurs seasonally.

The American Medical Association next week plans to release a study showing a possible connection between high ozone levels in pollution and the increased incidence of asthma.

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