Air Pollution, Heart Disease and Stroke

Many factors contribute to heart disease, including your genes. But growing medical evidence links air pollution and heart disease. Whether you live in a city where smog forecasts are routine or in a less populated place, tiny pollution particles in the air can lead to big problems for your heart.

Pollution can come from traffic, factories, power generation, wildfires or even cooking with a wood stove. One of the most common indoor sources is smoking — a danger both to the person lighting up and to those nearby.

Short-term exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias and heart failure in susceptible people, such as the elderly or those with preexisting medical conditions.

The risk of death is greater from long-term exposure. Current science suggests air pollution aids the development and progression of atherosclerosis, plaque that builds up in the artery walls and causes heart disease. Pollution also may play a role in high blood pressure and diabetes.

Precautions can help people with heart disease

Talk to your health care professional to understand the risks in your area, where to find more resources about local air pollution and for practical tips to reduce pollution exposure. There may be apps that have this information as well.

As you are able, try to remain indoors or take other precautions when there are low air quality warnings. Use of air filtration systems can improve the air quality within homes, schools and workplaces.