Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute compared air quality measurements along Utah’s most densely populated cities to the number of patients treated for heart attacks at Intermountain Healthcare hospitals during a 21-year period – Sept 1993 to May 2014.
“Our research indicated that during poor air quality days, namely those with high levels of PM2.5, more patients presented in our emergency departments with a serious heart attack known as a STEMI,” said Kent Meredith, MD, cardiologist and lead researcher with the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “By making this association, heart patients can better understand the risk bad air quality days pose to their health and can take appropriate defensive measures to decrease their chances of suffering a heart attack.”
ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMIs, is a serious form of a heart attack in which a coronary artery is completely blocked and a large part of the heart muscle is unable to receive blood. If left untreated for too long, the lack of oxygen to the heart will damage the heart muscles and cause irreparable damages or death.
The study of more than 16,000 patients looked at three types of heart attacks – STEMI, non-STEMI and unstable angina – to identify which type of heart attack a patient was more at risk for on bad air days. Researchers identified a strong association between bad air quality days – those with a threshold above 25 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter of air – with greater risk of STEMIs – the most dangerous type of heart attack.
Dr. Meredith recommends four things people with heart problems can do to limit exposure to the bad air, thus reducing their risk of increased artery inflammation:
- Exercise indoors
- Limit your time outdoors
- Avoiding stressful situations or activities
- Remain compliant with medications prescribed by your physician
"These activities can reduce inflammation in the arteries, and therefore make patients less sensitive to the fine particulate matter present on poor air quality days,” said Dr. Meredith.
The Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute research team reported the results of this study this month at the 2015 American Heart Association in Orlando.
Dr Meredith explains the research study in this short video.