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Study reveals worrisome new factor contributing to heart attacks: 'Up to 2.8% of heart attack deaths may be attributed'

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have heart attacks each year.

Air pollution might be contributing to a huge number of heart attacks

Photo Credit: iStock

Air-breathers beware: the combination of heat, smoke, and smog prevalent in much of the country right now is hard on our hearts

It's a growing concern, as more than 800,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack each year already. 

What's happening? 

The American Heart Association is highlighting Chinese research that examined 202,000 heart attack deaths from 2015-20. 

They found that days with extreme heat and high levels of air pollution particles were "associated" with a greater risk of heart attack death, more so for women and the elderly during heat waves, the association reported

"Extreme temperature events are becoming more frequent, longer, and more intense, and their adverse health effects have drawn growing concern," Dr. Liu Yuewei, an associate professor at China's Sun Yat-sen University, said in the report.  

Why could it get worse?  

The U.S. has had a hot summer, setting "hundreds" of records, USA Today reported. In another story, the newspaper noted that human-generated air pollution is linked to the rising mercury, making extreme heat more likely. 

Air pollution — the World Health Organization notes that 99% of humans are over-breathing it — seems to aggravate heart health. The particles travel deep into the lungs, troubling blood vessels around the heart, the AHA reported

Interestingly, extreme cold and air pollution may combine for a bad mix for the heart as well, but the researchers said the heat is worse than the cold. 

The news release noted that "up to 2.8% of heart attack deaths may be attributed" to the mix of "extreme temperatures" and air with pollution particles. 

What can be done to help? 

Drinking more water, taking it easy, and dunking your feet in cool water are some easy hacks to reduce body temperature. Oddly, it's recommended to turn your fan off when it's 95 degrees or hotter. WHO experts said fans likely won't prevent heat illnesses when it's that hot.  

Liu said using inside air purifiers and wearing a mask outside when air quality is extremely poor can help with breathing. 

"To improve public health, it is important to take fine particulate pollution into consideration when providing extreme temperature warnings to the public," Liu said.

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