Health Hub: Breathing in slow death

Poor air quality is a trigger for cardiovascular diseases, but the danger is seldom highlighted.

December 27, 2014 09:33 am | Updated 09:33 am IST

Traffic policemen, people involved in roadworks, and those living near roads are said to be at increased risk of vascular diseases.

More evidence has emerged on the link between air pollution and vascular diseases since the American Heart Association (AHA) first published a statement of an expert panel in 2004 on consistent risk of cardiovascular events due to exposure to particulate matter.

In fact, the expert panel updated its findings in 2010, adding more evidence and including new findings. In clinical practice, there is evidence of people’s living and working environment becoming a major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases, says Manu R. Varma, cardiologist, Medical Trust Hospital. Cases of traffic police personnel who had undergone treatment for vascular diseases indicate the link between the two, says Dr. Varma.

Hypertension, diabetes, eating habits, stress, blood viscosity, and smoking are all cited as risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, but poor air quality rarely figure in the group, he says. Exposure to particulate matter can trigger cardiovascular events that could be non-fatal in short term — a few hours to weeks — but could be fatal in the event of long-term exposure, says the AHA statement.

City roads lined with tall concrete buildings are among the most polluted areas as vehicle emissions are trapped there, he adds. Thrombosis or the formation of clot in a blood vessel that results in a cardiovascular event, many a time fatal, could be triggered by air pollution. In deep vein thrombosis too, which is a clot formation in any of the veins, usually in legs, air pollution could be the villain. Many a time people take medical help only when the condition has worsened, says Dr. Varma.

Depending on the location of the thrombosis, it could result in stroke or heart attack.

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