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Is Bad Air More Dangerous Than Cocaine?

by Dr. Nithin Jayan on  March 12, 2011 at 3:15 PM Health Watch   - G J E 4
Here's one more reason to strive hard to win pure air to breathe in. Air pollution triggers more heart attacks than most other risk factors, suggests study. It is well known that heart attack is triggered by various factors, such as physical exertion, stressful events, heavy meals, or increases in air pollution. A recent study compared triggers of heart attack at an individual and population level.
Is Bad Air More Dangerous Than Cocaine?
Is Bad Air More Dangerous Than Cocaine?
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The findings that were published in the Lancet Journal suggest that air pollution triggers more heart attacks than using cocaine. It poses as high a risk of setting off a heart attack as alcohol, coffee and physical exertion. Sex, anger, marijuana use and chest or respiratory infections are other major risk factors. However air pollution which is a population-wide factor is the major culprit. Though more dangerous, factors like drug use are relatively rarer. Polluted air should be taken more seriously.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO) around 2 million premature deaths worldwide every year occur due to air pollution. It is undoubtedly a major environmental risk to health.  Air pollution in many major cities in Asia exceeds the WHO's air quality guidelines.

One major mistake that physicians make is that they always look at individual patients rather than expanding their thoughts to a population level. Low risk factors like air pollution hence rarely get attention since they do not look important at an individual level.

"Of the triggers for heart attack studied, cocaine is the most likely to trigger an event in an individual, but traffic has the greatest population effect as more people are exposed to (it)," the researchers wrote.

The study that combined data from 36 separate studies is of great significance as it calls in for a change in outlook with respect to assessing risk factors. Authorities may start thinking seriously about strengthening efforts to ban smoking in public places. The strategy was tried out in England and it aided the health service by saving 8.4 million pounds ($13 million) in the first year of ban. A swift and significant drop in the number of heart attacks was noted. Second hand smoke (passive smoking) was not involved in the study; its effects are likely to be similar to that of outdoor air pollution.

Source: The Lancet Journal

Source: Medindia
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