The Speaker
Sunday, 21 July 2024 – 08:29

Pollution: Heart Attacks and Strokes higher on days of poor air quality

In the UK, there has been a link seen between days of increased air pollution and the numbers of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.

The study completed by King’s College London analysed these effects within 9 UK cities: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton. 

The data showed that higher air pollution days resulted in an extra 124 heart attacks, 231 strokes and 193 asthma attacks, over the year.

The team used ambulance call data, with heart attacks suffered by patients already in hospital being excluded, compared with the data of particulate matter levels from monitoring stations within the cities.

Derby was the only city to see no apparent increase, whilst London showed the highest increase- with an extra 87 cardiac arrests, 144 strokes, and 74 children/adults going to the hospitals with asthma-related problems per year.

These findings come after research from the European Environment Agency, last year, showed nearly 500,000 premature deaths within Europe every year were as a result of air pollution. 

The British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) research suggests air pollution will likely affect your heart and circulation by damaging the inside walls of your blood vessels, restricting blood vessel movement, increasing blood clotting, altering the normal electrical function of the heart, and making small changes to the hearts structure. 

Ultimately, these damages can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes to those with existing heart and circulatory conditions or contribute to the development of new health problems.

A balanced diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables could help protect you from these negative effects, research by the BHF has suggested. Additionally, the benefits of being physically active could help as well.

However, the BHF suggest there is little evidence that wearing a mouth mask is an effective method for protecting yourself against air pollution.

Cutting emissions is another way to reduce the impact of air pollution on people’s health, with the study suggesting reducing air pollution by 1/5 would decrease the incidence of lung cancer by around 5-7% – in the 9 cities surveyed. 

NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said: “These new figures show air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks, so it’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency. Since these avoidable deaths are happening now, not in 2025 or 2050, together we need to act now.” 

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) said it was “already working hard to reduce transport emissions and are investing £3.5 billion to clean up our air.”

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