Heart attacks appear to be more common on days with high levels of air pollution, according to new research by a team of German researchers, presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care.
For their study, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) compared ambulance calls that required doctor assistance alongside air pollution levels between 2014 and 2017.
Nearly a third of the total number of calls made during that time were related to heart issues, and calls involving cardiac distress were most likely to occur when air pollution was high.
While rises in carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the air are linked to cardiovascular issues, researchers say there was no link between heart health emergencies and other environmental conditions, like wind speed, cloud cover, and hours of sunshine. But temperature may play a role - researchers associated warmer weather with fewer heart attacks.
The study's authors say the findings can help guide hospitals on how to better prepare for "air-pollution-driven fluctuations" in emergency calls.
"The results of these will allow them to allocate staff and other medical resources based on the weather forecast and help ensure patients get the care they need," lead author Sabine Weingast of TUM's Department of Anaesthesiology, said in a statement.
"More research on lowering levels of air pollution is also necessary."
A separate study led by Health Canada identifies air pollution as one of the leading causes of premature death worldwide. It kills an estimated 9 million people a year annually, and about 15,300 people in Canada.
Thumbnail image by Cheryl Santa Maria. Ambulance: goceris/Canva Pro. Background: sathapokhurpto/Canva Pro.