NEW YORK – Living near a busy road can increase the risk of premature death by a fifth, according to a new study. New York University scientists say people exposed to above-average levels of air pollution were 20% more likely to die over the next 14 years, mostly from cardiovascular disease.
The study also shows that rates of heart attacks and strokes increased by 17% in those affected. The results open the door to screening programs and preventive measures that improve the chances of survival. They were based on 50,000 people over the age of 40 living in the Golestan region of Iran. Participants were mostly poor and agreed to have their health monitored during annual visits dating back to 2004.
“Our study highlights the role of key environmental factors of indoor/outdoor air pollution, access to modern health services and proximity to noisy and polluted roads in all causes of death and death due to cardiovascular disease in particular,” says lead author Dr. Rajesh Vedanthan. , cardiologist at NYU Langone Health, in a statement. “Our findings help broaden the disease risk profile beyond age and traditional personal risk factors.”
Using wood-burning stoves or kerosene stoves to cook food that was not properly ventilated by a chimney also increased the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36 and 19 percent, respectively. Living far from specialized medical clinics with catheterization labs capable of unclogging clogged arteries was another aggravating factor.
The risk of death increased by 1% for every 6.2 miles of distance. In Gulistan, most people live more than 80 km from these modern facilities. The results also show that one in three people who lived within 500 meters of a main road had a 13% increased risk of death.
The study, published in PLOS ONE, identifies the environmental factors that pose the greatest risk to the heart and overall health. It also adds much-needed scientific evidence from people living in low- and middle-income countries. Most studies focus on urban populations in high-income countries with much greater access to modern health care services.
“These results illustrate a new opportunity for health policymakers to reduce the burden of disease in their communities by mitigating the impact of environmental risk factors such as air pollution on cardiovascular health,” says the lead author Michael Hadley, cardiology researcher and incoming assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai.
Other environmental factors analyzed, including low neighborhood income levels, increasing population density and too much exposure to nighttime light, were not independent predictors of risk of death. This contradicts previous research in predominantly urban settings that has suggested otherwise. The volunteers completed a detailed lifestyle questionnaire and physical examination. There were more than 2,700 cardiovascular deaths and nearly 6,000 from all causes during the follow-up period.
The researchers analyzed data collected up to December 2018. They then created a predictive model on overall death rates and risk of death from heart disease. They plan to continue the project by applying it to other countries with the aim of refining capabilities.
The tool could serve as a guide to assess the effectiveness of environmental, lifestyle and personal health modifications in reducing death rates around the world. According to the World Health Organization, a quarter of deaths worldwide are now attributable to environmental factors, including poor air and water quality, lack of sanitation and exposure to chemicals. toxic chemicals.
Environmental hazards were responsible for around 11.3 million deaths in 2019, of which 5.1 million were due to cardiovascular disease.
“This study advances our understanding of the environmental factors that may be most detrimental to cardiovascular health,” Hadley says. “By combining many environmental factors in a single model, we could better control for risk factor interactions and identify the most important environmental risk factors for cardiovascular health.”
Air pollution killed nearly 6.7 million people worldwide in 2019 alone. Tiny toxic particles enter the bloodstream. They travel to the lungs, heart, brain and other major organs – and have been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our work shows how publicly available data can be used to create risk maps for individual communities, even in low-income rural settings,” Hadley says. “Ultimately, we expect health systems to use similar approaches to create environmental risk maps for the communities they serve. The data can allow physicians to estimate environmental risks to their patients and offer personalized recommendations to mitigate risk.
Reporting by South West News Service editor Mark Waghorn
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