Air Pollution Can Contribute to Heart Disease

A recent study has shown that air pollution can lead to the development of arrhythmia, a medical condition characterized by abnormal heartbeats. Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are two types of arrhythmias that, if not treated, can cause heart disease or blood clots. It is worth noting that heart disease affected an estimated 244 million people worldwide in 2020, according to the American Heart Association.

Compelling research indicates that air pollution may be a significant contributor to heart disease, yet its implications for arrhythmia remain widely unknown. The study sought to illuminate this relationship, gathering medical data from over 2,000 hospitals across 322 cities in China. Focusing on patients exhibiting sudden symptoms of arrhythmia, the team recorded air quality levels from monitoring stations in close proximity to each hospital. The results are illuminating and may have broad implications.

The study reveals that over 190,000 individuals were diagnosed with sudden-onset symptomatic arrhythmia, encompassing atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, as well as premature beats originating in the heart’s atria or ventricles, and supraventricular tachycardia. This indicates that there is a heightened risk of symptomatic arrhythmia following acute exposure to ambient air pollution. This risk is most significant in the first few hours following exposure but can persist for up to 24 hours. It was observed that the relationship between exposures to 6 pollutants and 4 different subtypes of arrhythmias exhibited a linear trend, with no discernable threshold levels of concentration. These findings have significant implications for our understanding of the relationship between environmental factors and cardiac issues.

Inhaling polluted air is strongly linked to heart issues such as atrial flutter and supraventricular tachycardia, among others. Nitrogen dioxide, one of six pollutants studied, was found to have the strongest association with these conditions. The more polluted air patients are exposed to, the greater their risk of arrhythmias. The exact mechanisms are not fully understood, but evidence suggests that air pollution can cause oxidative stress, systemic inflammation, and impair autonomic nervous function, which can alter cardiac electrophysiological activities and lead to arrhythmias. Our findings support the biological plausibility of this link.

This research reveals yet another reason why air pollution is a dire threat to our lives.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Hourly air pollution exposure and the onset of symptomatic arrhythmia: an individual-level case–crossover study in 322 Chinese cities