In a compelling study led by Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory DiseasesResearchers have established a direct correlation between air pollution and a higher rate of cardiovascular disease-related deaths worldwide.
This analysis, which includes data from almost all member states of the World Health Organization (WHO), sheds light on the stark differences in mortality rates due to air pollution between high- and low-income countries.
Importance of the study
“In 2022, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) killed 41 million people, equivalent to 74% of all deaths globally. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) account for the majority of NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people die annually from CVD,” the study authors wrote.
“Traditional risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and an unhealthy diet increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Air pollution, both outdoor, environmental and domestic, is not included in this risk calculation even though air pollution is a major contributor to the global burden of disease, with approximately 12% of all deaths attributable to 2019.”
Widespread impact of air pollution
The study’s findings are a grim reminder of the widespread impact of air pollution on public health, particularly in relation to ischemic heart disease and stroke, two main types of cardiovascular diseases.
The analysis revealed that in the 183 countries examined, deaths related to ischemic heart disease attributable to air pollution were more common than deaths related to strokes caused by the same factor. This distinction highlights the many ways air pollution can affect cardiovascular health.
Uneven burden of air pollution
In 2019, the rate of deaths related to ischemic heart disease linked to outdoor air pollution was significantly higher in low-income countries, with 70 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 16 per 100,000 in high-income countries. This disparity highlights the unequal burden of air pollution, with low-income countries facing more severe health impacts due to poorer air quality.
Additionally, the research emphasizes a critical problem facing low-income countries: household air pollution. The use of polluting fuels and stoves for cooking (a common practice in these regions) was identified as a major contributor to the problem, causing more than twice as many stroke-related deaths compared to outdoor air pollution ( 39 stroke-related deaths). per 100,000 versus 19 per 100,000).
This aspect of air pollution represents a major public health challenge in low-income countries, where access to clean cooking technologies is often limited.
Study co-author Dr. Nikolai Khaltaev emphasized the importance of addressing air pollution as part of a holistic approach to cardiovascular disease prevention.
“Effective air pollution control, along with lifestyle modifications and disease control, should be essential components of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies,” Dr. Khaltaev said.
The study serves as a crucial call to action for policymakers, healthcare providers, and the global community to step up efforts to reduce air pollution and its detrimental effects on cardiovascular health.
The evidence underscores the urgency of implementing effective air pollution control measures, especially in low-income countries where health impacts are most pronounced.
“Despite growing awareness of the impact of air pollution on population health, appreciation of air pollution as a modifiable risk factor is still limited among health professionals who traditionally focus more on the classic risk factors,” the researchers wrote.
“It is important to raise awareness about the harmful impact of air pollution on cardiovascular disease mortality among the general population, healthcare providers, the research community and policymakers.”
The study is published in the journal. Chronic diseases and translational medicine.
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