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Living Near Major Roads May Shorten Heart Attack Survival

MONDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that heart attack survivors who live close to major roads are at increased risk for death from all causes during a 10-year span.

U.S. researchers looked at more than 3,500 heart attack survivors with an average age of 62 and found that those who lived less than about 330 feet from a major road were 27 percent more likely to die over 10 years than those who lived about 3,300 feet or more away.

Patients who lived about 330 to 650 feet away from a major road had a 19 percent increased risk of death, and those who lived about 650 to 3,300 feet away had a 13 percent increased risk of death.

The roads in the study included major interstate and state highways throughout the United States.

There were nearly 1,100 deaths during the 10-year study, 63 percent from cardiovascular causes, 12 percent from cancer and 4 percent from respiratory disease.

The findings appear in the May 7 issue of the journal Circulation.

"We think there is exposure to a combination of air pollution near these roadways and other exposure, such as excessive noise or stress from living close to the roadway, that may contribute to the study findings," study author Dr. Murray Mittleman, director of the Cardiovascular Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a journal news release.

And those factors may disproportionately affect some portions of the population.

"[People] with lower levels of education and income are more likely to live in communities closer to a major roadway, so they are bearing a larger burden of the risk associated with exposure than people with more resources," Mittleman added.

It was already known that long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular death in the general population.

"From the public-policy point of view, the association between risk of death and proximity of housing to major roadways should be considered when new communities are planned," Mittleman said. "From an individual point of view, people may lessen the absolute risk of living near a roadway by paying attention to the general [heart attack] prevention measures, including quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control."

While the study found a link between proximity to major roads and mortality, it did not prove that one leads to the other.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about air pollution and health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Circulation, news release, May 7, 2012

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