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Researchers make concerning connection to elevated risk of heart attack — here's what you need to know

Reducing exposure "is necessary to reduce the occurrence of potential [heart attack] and mortality."

Reducing exposure "is necessary to reduce the occurrence of potential [heart attack] and mortality."

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A new study shows long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of a heart attack and complications following a heart attack that can lead to death. The research is yet another wake-up call to reduce the air pollution we produce. 

What happened?

Researchers in South Korea recently published their findings in the scientific journal Nature. The study looked at over 45,000 patients who experienced a heart attack from 2006 through 2015.  

It's the first study to show a long-term association between exposure to particulate matter and heart attacks. 

PM10 are very tiny particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less. Particulate matter mostly comes from burning wood and dirty energy sources like coal and oil. Smoke from wildfires and pollution from power plants, industrial facilities, and vehicles are very common sources of PM10. 

Why is this study concerning? 

"We observed that high concentration of air pollutants, particularly of PM10 … was associated with an increased incidence of STEMI [heart attack]," the authors wrote. "Moreover, PM10 and [sulfur dioxide] levels were risk factors for in-hospital cardiogenic shock complication after [heart attack]."

Cardiogenic shock is when your heart suddenly can't pump enough blood, and severe heart attacks often cause it. 

The authors of the report "strongly suggest" that reducing exposure to air pollution "is necessary to reduce the occurrence of potential [heart attack] and mortality."  

While the increased risk of a heart attack is frightening, what's more concerning is that it's just the most recent study showing the adverse health effects of air pollution caused by dirty energy

The American Lung Association states, "A recent review of all available scientific evidence to date clearly shows that particle pollution is associated with increased mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and lung cancer."

It may seem obvious that breathing in air pollution harms your lungs, but this new study points out that "many epidemiological and clinical studies have suggested that the majority of the adverse effects of [air pollution] are associated with the cardiovascular system." 

What's being done to reduce air pollution? 

The tide is shifting away from dirty energy sources to cleaner sources like wind and solar. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is directing tens of billions of dollars toward public transportation, electric vehicle chargers, clean school buses, and port and airport infrastructure. 

On a personal level, there are a plethora of steps you can take to limit air pollution, many of which save you money in the long run. Ditching your gas-powered car is a big one. You can switch it out for an EV, a bike, or public transportation

One way to limit your risk of a heart attack is by getting more exercise, so walking will not only improve your health, but it also reduces the amount of particle pollution your car spews out — it's a win/win! 

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