This extreme heat and air pollution can double your risk of a heart attack

Aug 1, 2023

The elderly are the most vulnerable.

SAN ANTONIO — The blistering summer temperatures are proving deadly. Add in extreme air pollution and the danger can be even worse.

The results came from a study published by the American Heart Association. Researchers found that when it comes to air pollution the smaller pollution particles end up in the bottom of the lung which carries oxygen and those particles back to the heart causing inflammation.

Dr. Jose Diaz, a cardiologist with the Baptist Health System added, "And with the inflammation, then we know that part of that causes heart attacks and strokes."

With the heat we all know we sweat more, increasing blood circulation in the skin which forces the heart to pump more blood.

Dr. Eric Yang, a cardiologist with University Health and UT Health San Antonio told us, "It also causes drops in blood pressure. So these are different ways that can stress stress the heart as well."

Researchers analyzed more than 200,000 heart attack between the years 2015 and 2020. The data was gathered in a Chinese province experiencing four distinct seasons, with each season having a distinct range of temperatures and pollution levels.

Dr. Yang said, "People who have issues with maintaining oxygenation with their lungs and their circulation will be very sensitive to air pollution and have stresses related to that as well."

The study also found that the risk of a fatal heart attack was 18 percent higher than normal during a 2-day heat wave between 82.6 and 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit. But the risk was 74 percent higher during a 4-day heat wave with a heat index between 94.8 and 109.4. Add in pollution levels above 37.5 micrograms per cubic meter, which is half of what the World Health Organization recommends not exceeding in an entire year, and the risk doubles!

Statistics show the elderly are most at risk. Dr. Diaz said, "The mechanisms of thirst and other signs of dehydration are not there as when you're young."

Physicians say if you must be outside with poor air quality wear a mask, and drink water before you go outside in heat.