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Does Air Pollution Harm the Heart?

Most people are aware that pollution is bad for the body. It is similar to smoking cigarettes or being near an area with too much smoke for an extended time.

Most assume that if air pollution levels are kept to within standards, it is not a huge concern. A new study, however, shows that may not be the case. In fact, air pollution may significantly change a person’s heart.

Air Pollution Study

A group of researchers from the Queen Mary University in London studied how people were impacted by air pollution based on the places where they lived.

The researchers managed to show that air pollution can harm the heart to such an extent that it begins to mimic the symptoms of early stage heart failure!

The study was done with many stipulations. Around 4000 people participated. They went through heart scans, MRI and regular blood tests. The purpose of the tests was to understand their heart from every possible angle and test result.

Their lifestyle was also recorded, along with their location. The results are certainly interesting.

Does Pollution Impact the Heart?

If people lived near busy roads and found themselves exposed to nitrogen dioxide and/or PM2.5, they had larger right and left ventricles. Nitrogen dioxide is produced by fuel burning. PM2.5 is a chemical that comes from power plants, fires and cars.

These two ventricles are crucial to the functioning of the heart. While the participants of the study were still healthy, their ventricles were showing the signs of early-stage heart failure. And the more these people were exposed to the chemicals, the worse their heart appeared.

Do Pollution Guidelines Matter?

There are two major concerns that come out of this study.

Not only does it show that patients are more likely to develop heart issues if they are exposed to greater levels of pollution.

But it also shows that it can happen when the pollution is well within regulations put out by the government.

Every participant in the study lived in the United Kingdom. None were exposed to levels of pollution even close to the government guidelines, and the UK is one of the countries with “reasonable” restrictions on pollution levels. Many countries are far more lax.

While more testing is needed, the study may indicate that it is time to rethink many of the pollution guidelines issued by world governments.

Pollution as a Risk Factor

There are many risk factors for heart failure. These include being overweight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

But such risk factors are within the control of the individual. They are able to choose what they eat, how much they exercise, and whether they smoke or drink excessively.

Expecting people to move if they want to improve their heart health is not a realistic proposal. Most people live near the area where they work. And most high paying jobs are in major cities, even in first world countries.

The UK study shows that air pollution is an issue that countries may need to deal with even more aggressively than they are right now.