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Deadly dirty air

city crowd

Who would have thought that dirty air causes more heart attacks than cocaine, or that pollution is equally as able to cause a heart attack as alcohol, coffee, or physical exertion? A new report from The Lancet tell us all about the surprising potential dangers of every day things, like sex, anger and chest infections. The study states that population level risk - something like air quality that affects a population equally - needs to be taken more seriously and one way of doing so is to put it alongside other better known risks that are actually less toxic.

Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University in Belgium led the study and hopes that the findings will encourage doctors to speak to their patients about population level risks. "Physicians are always looking at individual patients -- and low risk factors might not look as important at an individual level, but if they are prevalent in the population then they have a greater public health relevance," he explained.

The research team culled data from 36 separate studies. They calculated the proportion of heart attacks caused by a variety of triggers, also known as population-attributable fraction (PAF).

The highest PAF was exposure to traffic, followed by physical exertion, alcohol, coffee, air pollution, then anger, sex, cocaine use, smoking marijuana and respiratory infection.

Tim Chico, a heart specialist at the University of Sheffield, surmised that the research would help doctors focus on the important heart attack triggers. "However, what triggers the heart attack should be considered the 'last straw'. The foundations of heart disease that lead to a heart attack are laid down over many years," he explained. "If someone wants to avoid heart attack they should focus on not smoking, exercising, eating a health diet and maintaining their ideal weight." No surprises there.

Source: Reuters, The Lancet


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