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Pollution Shown to Be # 1 Trigger for Heart Attacks

Researchers at Hasselt University in Belgium recently conducted a study with some startling findings: air pollution triggers more heart attacks than cocaine and poses the same risk as alcohol, coffee and physical exertion.

The study was published in the February 2011 issue of The Lancet journal.

The researchers pooled data from 36 separate studies that looked at various heart attack triggers. Using the data from these studies, they were able to determine the population-attributable fraction (PAF) of each trigger. PAF is the proportion of total heart attacks estimated to have been caused by each trigger, and gives a measure of how much disease would be avoided if the risk were no longer present.

They found that the highest risk PAF was exposure to traffic. That was closely followed by physical exertion, alcohol, coffee, air pollution, and then things such as anger, sex, cocaine use, smoking marijuana, and respiratory infections.

The researchers highlighted that cocaine was most likely to trigger a heart attack in an individual but traffic pollution had the largest overall effect because so many people are exposed to it.

This study provides yet another reason to increase efforts for reducing pollution and follows a study conducted late last year showing that pollution is responsible for over 500,000 premature deaths a year.

It is important to remember that the foundations of heart disease that lead to a heart attack are laid down over a number of years. According to health experts, the best way to avoid a heart attack is by exercising, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.

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