Vehicle exhaust fumes worsen failing hearts and fill hospital beds

July 11th, 2013 by British Heart Foundation

Commuter traffic in the narrow roads leading to the St Peter Port waterfront concentrate vehicle emissions for pedestrians (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Commuter traffic in the narrow roads leading to the St Peter Port waterfront concentrate vehicle emissions for pedestrians to inhale (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

Air pollution is a danger to people living with heart failure, and increases their chance of hospitalisation, according to a global study by British Heart Foundation (BHF) funded researchers.

The research, published in the paper “Air pollution and lung cancer incidence in 17 European cohorts: prospective analyses from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects” in the Lancet on 10 July 2013 reveals that short-term exposure to air pollution increases hospital admissions and death rates among people living with heart failure.

In the UK over 750,000 people suffer from heart failure – a debilitating and incurable condition which accounts for around one million inpatient bed days each year.

The University of Edinburgh researchers analysed data from 12 countries, including data from the UK, encompassing over four million cases of heart failure.

The studies observed an increased risk of hospitalisation and mortality rate in patients with heart failure associated with various air pollutants.

Dr Anoop Shah, researcher at the University of Edinburgh’s BHF Centre of Research Excellence, said “we already know that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack.”

Bicyclists and pedestrians inhale vehicle exhaust particulate matter when stuck in St Peter Port traffic (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Bicyclists inhale vehicle exhaust particulate matter when stuck in St Peter Port traffic (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

“Our study suggests that air pollution also affects patients with heart failure,” he said.

“We found a strong association between exposure to air pollution and admission to hospital with heart failure or death from heart failure.”

“The effects were strongest for particulate matter found in vehicle exhaust fumes,” Dr Shah said.

Joseph Clift, Policy Manager at the BHF, said “hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living each day with the impact of heart failure.”

“This study reveals air pollution could be making these already vulnerable people even more unwell,” he said.

“It’s vital that the UK government meets European Commission targets to improve air quality.”

“The benefit would not only be felt by heart failure patients, but by reducing the cost to the National Health Service, to our economy too,” Mr Clift said.

It is estimated that reducing the levels of harmful particles in air (PM) would increase average life expectancy by 7 to 8 months. This is more than if all road traffic accidents were eliminated.

The BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal is funding ground-breaking research to find ways to repair damaged hearts and end the suffering caused by heart failure.

 

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