According to new research, a relatively brief exposure to heavy air pollution can increase the risk of arrhythmia (heartbeat with irregular or abnormal rhythm). The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal also mentioned the risk of arrhythmia in a heavy air pollution exposed area in China.
The research finds the risk of stress and inflammation that further increases the risk of impaired heart function is due to the harmful chemicals present in the air. The report added that air pollution can damage the cardiovascular system. The Scientists added even a few hours of exposure to heavy air pollution can increase the risk.
The researchers used the hourly air pollution concentration levels and health data sourced from several hospitals across different cities in China. This data is used to better understand the link between arrhythmia and air pollution exposure. The study included over 190,000 patients with acute onset of symptomatic arrhythmia. The symptoms include supraventricular tachycardia, atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, and premature beat.
The research accessed six different types of air pollution; nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone, fine particles (PM2.5), and coarse particles (PM2.5-10). Scientists found that even a few hours of exposure to these can increase the risk, but the symptoms lessened after 24 hours.
The highly associated symptoms were atrial flutter and supraventricular tachycardia, followed by atrial fibrillation and premature beats. The study also finds the associated risk was more common in males than in females. This may be because of risk factors for arrhythmias like smoking and alcohol consumption or may be due to more exposure to outdoor activities.
Another finding is; in colder seasons the risks were more common. This may be because the cooler temperatures intensify the risk of air pollution’s impact on the cardiovascular system. Also, the study finds the strongest association with all types of arrhythmia in those who were exposed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The scientists hope their findings highlight the issue of air pollution globally and encourage the world to reduce it.
Causes of air pollution’s impact on heart rhythm
Researchers are already investigating the causes of this impact on heart rhythm. But some suggest that this is due to the harmful chemicals present in the air. These harmful chemicals are responsible for oxidative stress and systematic inflammation, which can impair heart function. Or it may be an exacerbation of pre-existing arrhythmias. According to the scientists, arrhythmia can increase the risk of strokes and blood clots that can lead to heart failure or sudden death. In such cases, emergency treatments are needed.
The scientists said more research is needed to determine these causes. Scientists added; it needs to be determined how different concentration of air pollutants increases the risk or if exposure at a young age is the cause. Heavy air pollution around the globe is a big threat to the health of living beings. This needs to be reduced by adopting several methods and strategies.