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Inhaling a Heart Attack: How Air Pollution Can Cause Heart Disease
Date:9/8/2009

M.S., overall research project manager.

Ozone gases, a well-known component of air pollution, were not the biggest culprit. Rather, small microscopic particles about a 10th of the diameter of a human hair caused the rise in blood pressure and impaired blood vessel function, tests showed. The blood pressure increase was rapid and occurred within two hours, while the impairment in blood vessel function occurred later but lasted as long as 24 hours.

It's believed these fine particles deposit deep into the lungs and certain components may gain entrance to the blood stream, or cause an inflammatory response throughout the body. There is also evidence that functions in the body's nervous system are also disrupted.

The research is the latest in the relatively new field of Environmental Cardiology which looks at the association between air pollution and heart disease. Brook says that at the very least the findings support efforts to maintain current ambient air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"It really bolsters and strengthens the importance of maintaining air quality for human health," says Brook.

There are practical ways to avoid exposure to high levels of air pollution, such as avoiding unnecessary travel or commutes and not exercising during rush hour, or near busy roadways, Brook says. In modern society, the burning of fossil fuels is the primary source for air pollution.

"If air pollution levels are forecasted to be high, those with heart disease, diabetes or lung disease should avoid unnecessary outdoor activity," he says.

Additional authors: Bruce Urch, University of Toronto; J. Timothy Dvonch, University of Michigan; Robert L. Bard, University of Michigan; Mary Speck, Gage Occupational and Environmental Health Unit, Toronto; Gerald Keeler, University of Michigan; Masako Morishita, Universit
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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