Air pollution increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

Air pollution

Air pollution increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

As you might have registered, there are a lot of risk factors for acquiring cardiovascular disease. Those of you who read these posts are generally quite healthy: you eat “good” food, you exercise frequently, you keep your weight somewhat stable and you are hopefully not smoking. If you commit to all (or just one or two) of these choices, you increase your chance to live a longer and healthier life.

There are however some factors that is harder, albeit not impossible, for the individual to change. American Heart Association has made a scientific statement, that present-day levels of air pollution contribute to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality (1).

A recent article published in NEJM studied the effects air pollution on a Medicare population in US. Sixty million Medicare beneficiaries were followed from 2000 to 2012 and annual averages of particular matter (PM) and ozone was estimated according to the zip code for each individual. Researchers estimated the risk of death associated with exposure of a small increase in air pollution. The increase was associated with an increase of all-cause mortality of 7.3% and 1.1%, respectively. Data showed an even higher increase in all-cause mortality when the increased air pollution started at lower levels (2)

A study from Sweden followed two cohorts from 1990-2011 to investigate the effects of total and specific particulate matter (PM) on incidence of CVD, related to different exposure times. Exposure was based on years living in a specific area. Road traffic and residential heating were the largest local sources of PM air pollutants. Researchers found a strong association between these air pollutants and CVD among women. Exposure during the last five years seemed to be the most impactful. The association was higher in women vs men, in non-smokers vs smokers and for higher socioeconomic classes than for lower. The levels of PM air pollutants were in the time of this study below the current guidelines and thus at relatively low levels.


Even at low levels of air pollution, as is the case in the greater part of Sweden, pollution increase the risk of getting you sick. With this factor in mind, it might be even more important to do what you can regarding other factors that is easier to control, such as: exercising, eating healthy and never start smoking.

1. . Brook et al Particulate Matter Air Pollution and CVD. Circulation June 1, 2010
2. Qian Di et al. Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population. NEJM 376;26
3. Stockfelt et al. Long-term effects of total and source-specific particulate air pollution on incident cardiovascular disease in Gothenburg, Sweden Environmental Research 158 (2017) 61–71

Article by team EBT member @jonasliefke, 4th year Medical Student, BSc Physiotherapy.”

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