Green Heart Initiative
Healthy Hearts and Clean Air: Making the Connection
EPA researchers and partners are learning more about how people can better protect their cardiovascular health from air pollution.
EPA scientists and their partners are working to improve heart and cardiovascular health. The insights and discoveries they unlock are providing doctors, health professionals, and individuals with new information for taking action to protect health and lower risks from air pollution.
EPA and EPA-funded studies have revealed key new findings about the link between air pollution and cardiovascular health, including the finding that exposures to a combination of air pollutants can cause significantly more health problems than exposure to a single agent alone. They have also made breakthrough discoveries about the effects that tiny particles of air pollution, known as particulate matter (PM), have on cardiovascular health.
Recent research results include:
- Stroke and Fine Particle Air Pollution
A team of EPA-supported epidemiologists from Harvard and Brown Universities examined the medical records of 1,700 stroke patients in the Boston area over a 10-year period. When they compared the records to hourly measurements of fine particle air pollution, they revealed a link between pollution levels with an increased risk of ischemic strokes (the kind that occur when blood vessels to the brain are blocked).
For more information, see: "Ambient Air Pollution and the Risk of Acute Ischemic Stroke." Published February 13, 2012 in Archives of Internal Medicine.
- Unhealthy Mixes
EPA scientists collaborating with researchers at Duke University found that people exposed to a combination of particulate matter and the pollutant nitrogen dioxide may suffer worse health effects than those exposed to particulate matter alone.
- Fish Oil May Help
In a study by EPA scientists, researchers found evidence that omega-3 fatty acids (the kind found in most fish oil supplements) may protect the cardiovascular system from the harmful effects of fine particulate matter. So, if your doctor recommends you supplement your diet with fish oil, it might be reducing the adverse effects of air pollution. (Note: always check with your personal doctor before starting a dietary supplement such as fish oil.)
For more information, see: "Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Appears to Attenuate Particulate Air Pollution Induced Cardiac Effects and Lipid Changes in Healthy Middle-Aged Adults." Published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
EPA scientists have also advanced the understanding of the link between cardiovascular health and another air pollutant: ground level ozone. The scientists discovered links between ozone exposure and key indicators of cardiovascular health, including changes in heart rhythm, increased levels of an inflammation marker, and decreases in compounds that help dissolve artery-clogging blood clots. While previous studies had shown statistical associations between ozone exposure and such health problems, the EPA research identified a biologically-based explanation for these effects.
The work that EPA and their partners are doing is advancing the science needed to protect people’s heart and the rest of their cardiovascular health. It’s all part of their work helping the Agency meet one of its major priorities: improving air quality. It’s a year round mission.
EPA-Supported Clean Air Research Centers