Air pollution links to heart disease highlighted in new global study

Millions of people die each year from heart disease and stroke, which may be linked to air pollution, according to a new study.

The World Heart Foundation study warns that air pollution is now “the biggest environmental health risk,” as half of the nearly 7 million deaths that occur each year due to air pollution are due to cardiovascular diseases.

According to the study, this means that up to 1.9 million die each year from heart disease and just under a million from stroke due to outdoor air pollution alone.

The study also indicates that the number of deaths from heart disease attributable to air pollution has increased in some regions by up to 27% over the last decade.

And it states that air pollution is almost ten times higher than the level recommended by the World Health Organization in countries in Southeast Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.

According to the study, the Western Pacific region recorded the highest number of deaths from heart disease and stroke due to outdoor air pollution, with nearly 1 million deaths in 2019.

While the Southeast Asia region came in second place, with 762,000 deaths.

In the Western Pacific region, researchers estimate that 45% of countries have experienced increasing air pollution and suffer the highest mortality from strokes and heart diseases induced or exacerbated by it.

In Southeast Asia, Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, air pollution concentrations are almost 10 times higher than recommended.

The study warns that countries facing the biggest challenges with air pollution include those in the eastern Mediterranean, with Kuwait, Egypt and Afghanistan having the highest levels of PM2.5 pollution, sometimes referred to as soot.

The chair of the foundation’s air pollution and climate change think tank, Dr. Mark Miller, said in an interview that while air pollution has long been linked to asthma and lung conditions, increasingly More people are starting to see the links to other conditions.

“We want people to understand that pollution is not just a lung problem, but also a cardiovascular problem,” Dr. Miller added.

“Worldwide, air pollution is linked to 1.9 million cases of deaths from heart disease and almost 1 million deaths from stroke. They are astonishing figures.

“And it’s not just about deaths, but also about poor health. “Many cardiovascular diseases make people seriously ill, can prevent them from working, and can have a major impact on their lives and well-being.”

Dr Miller said one of the report’s key recommendations is also to improve monitoring and modeling of air pollutants, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

He explained that this is important because many of these countries are becoming more urbanized and therefore there could be greater exposure to harmful air pollutants, but often worse access to healthcare and less awareness about issues such as pollution. from air.

He added that the report also shows that poor indoor and outdoor air quality is not only a problem for low- and middle-income countries, but also for more developed countries.

“There is no safe level of air pollution, and scientists still don’t know the damage caused by different types of air pollution inside modern homes,” he told me.

Tim Dexter, clean air lead at the charity Asthma + Lung UK, said in an email that toxic air is a public health emergency and contributes to up to 43,000 premature deaths a year across Britain.

Dexter added that a consensus is also emerging among health professionals that urgent and bold action is needed to address the problem of toxic air.

“It’s time to end the politics of pollution and focus on what matters most: our health,” he said.

“There are solutions to clean the air, now leaders must show political courage and present them.”