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Environment vs Heart Attacks & Strokes

Posted Mar 17 2011 8:35am
As noted in USA Today last month , authors in the Lancet published a review of 36 studies looking for external & environmental triggers of myocardial infarctions, something beyond the usual blood pressure, cholesterol & sugar analysis.  They concluded that the use of cocaine had the greatest risk of triggering a heart attack in any given individual but that exposure to air pollution & traffic, while of dramatically lower risk, was likely to cause more heart attacks simply because we live in an industrialized world but relatively fewer people use cocaine.

Well, it's not like most of us can just pick up from the city and move out into the country to avoid a heart attack.  Besides, while the absolute numbers might be large, the absolute risk of having a heart attack due to air pollution and traffic is still quite small.  So the headline is a great way to draw readership but doesn't really offer much reason to change anything for you & me.

Now, we've all known that air pollution can trigger & aggravate asthma and other breathing conditions.  But despite the study above, I wasn't convinced that where we choose to live makes that much of an impact to most of us.  So ironically, I found a study this week published in the European Heart Journal where the authors concluded that residential road traffic noise was associated with an increase risk of stroke in our retirees.

The authors analyzed data from 57,053 participants over 13 years and uncovered 1,881 initial diagnoses of stroke, which they then linked back to exposure to traffic noise and air pollution.  Via statistics, they assigned 27% higher risk of stroke to those older than 64.5 years of age with no significant change in risk for those less than 64.5 years old.

Asthma, heart attacks, and now strokes.  I guess that explains the real estate adage, "location, location, location!"  So on second thought, maybe it might not be a bad idea to reconsider that job offer to relocate (to a less populated area).  And if you're about to retire and collect that gold watch at 65 years old, moving out to the country might actually be good for your health.

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