Researchers say, though common sense would suggest air pollution leads to respiratory-related deaths rather than cardiovascular-related deaths, new research shows that may not be the case.
The researchers aren't sure how air pollution increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, but suspect it may lead to inflammation, and thus greater blockage of the arteries, and changes in the nervous system, which could play a role in irregular heartbeats.
According to a new study it was found that people living in areas with higher air pollution had about a 12-percent higher risk for all cardiovascular diseases combined with diabetes. The risk for ischemic heart disease, which typically leads to heart attack, was 18 percent greater.
Air pollution increased the risk for irregular heart rhythms, heart failure, and heart attack by 13 percent. Overall, air pollution increased the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases between 8 percent and 18 percent.
Air pollution increased the risk for all these diseases more for current and former smokers when compared to people who had never smoked. Current and former smokers also had a greater risk of developing respiratory disease if they lived in higher air pollution areas. However, the results showed no increased risk of death from respiratory diseases in areas with more air pollution.
Specialists say they might be able to reduce the underlying processes of some cardiovascular disease just by reducing the exposure to air pollutants. And possibly, there may be ways to mitigate the impacts of air pollution, such as anti-inflammatory medications or other interventions.