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Pollution increases stroke risk in people with heart disorder

Scientists in the United States (U.S.) said people with one of the most common heart disorders who are exposed to greater levels of pollution have a 1.2- fold higher risk of developing stroke than their peers who live with less pollution. The results of their new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical College (UPMC) Heart and Vascular Institute and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The researchers found that stroke risk steadily increased with higher daily exposure to air pollution.

People with atrial fibrillation (AFib) already are at five times the risk of stroke, so the additional risk posed by fine particulate pollution is particularly concerning, said Jared W. Magnani, M.D., M.Sc., UPMC cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow. The heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat out of coordination with the lower chambers (ventricles).

This condition may have no symptoms, but when symptoms do appear they include palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue. Magnani said: “Our results advance the understanding of how air pollution impacts public health and strengthens the argument for continued advocacy to curb pollution. Fine particulate pollution is very small—it is able to get into our bodies through our lungs and into our bloodstream where it can trigger heart events.”

The study emphased the importance of air pollution alerts in advising the activities of people with certain heart conditions. “We measured pollution exposure at people’s door steps by using geocoding and then determined their annual exposure to particulate matter. This approach and the sample size make our study particularly powerful,” said Magnani. “We can use this informationtoguideourpatientsbyadvisingthemtolimit exposureto pollution. For example; we can notify those with atrial fibrillation to avoid being outside on dayswithunhealthyair quality, whichmay reducetheirriskof stroke.”

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