Long-term exposure to low air pollution increases risk of heart, lung damage among older adults

Long-term exposure to low air pollution increases risk of heart, lung damage among older adults&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

New Delhi: Air pollution is one of the most recent threats to health that has been uncovered. As pollution levels rise around the world, in some places more than others, researchers are uncovering the various ways air pollution can cause both short, and long term damage to health. A new study now suggests that prolonged exposure to even low levels of air pollution can cause serious health concerns, including heart and lung damage.

Researchers looked at the medical records of more than 63 million patients, from the year 2000 to 2016. It was found that long-term exposure to even low levels of air pollution led to an increased risk of pneumonia, heart attack, stroke, and irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. 

The threat was found to be higher for people of older age, according to the study published in the journal Circulation. 

Researchers also looked at the pollutants in the air – fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Each unit of increase in levels of those pollutants was associated with thousands of hospital admissions a year, the study found.

Higher risks of heart attack, stroke, a-fib and flutter, as well as pneumonia were associated with long-term exposure to particulate matter.

Similarly, long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide was associated with an increased risk of stroke and a-fib.

The findings of the study highlight the need to consider air pollution as a major risk factor for heart and lung diseases. 

“People should be conscious of the air quality in the region where they live to avoid harmful exposure over long periods of time, if possible,” said lead author Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Since our study found harmful effects at levels below current U.S. standards, air pollution should be considered as a risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory disease by clinicians, and policymakers should reconsider current standards for air pollutants,” she added in a journal news release.

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