New findings (1) were released earlier this month about how certain environmental factors can affect heart health. Teams that collaborated on these studies were the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The National Weather Service, the New York Department of Health and universities including University at Albany (SUNY) and Sun Yat-sen University of China.
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Using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, they studied 5,848 congenital heart defect cases and 5,742 babies with no structural deficits by linking and comparing weather conditions during the critical development of the fetus. The team found that 3-11 days of exposure to extreme heat during Spring and Summer was significantly associated wtih an increase in certain congenital heart defects. Also, ventricular and atrial septal defects, otherwise known as a “hole” in the heart, were the most likely conditions related to exposure to extreme Spring heat.
High wind chill temperatures
The research team reviewed 662,625 heart disease-related ER visits in the state of New York looking at the effects of wind chill and cold air temperatures. They found that an increase of heart disease effects happened when the wind chill temperatures were as high as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The current wind chill warning is for -20 degrees or below Fahrenheit. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, related emergencies have the strongest relationship between air temperature and wind chill temperature.
Air pollution and pet ownership
In China, the researchers studied 9,354 children from 5-17 years of age in 24 different districts. They monitored blood pressure and concentrations of air and smoke pollutants. They discovered the association between exposure to air and smoke pollutants and hypertension was stronger in children that didn’t have pets versus those children that lived with pets. From this study, it would appear that pet ownership may have a beneficial effect. However, further research is needed to solidly make this conclusion.
Arsenic and lead
The New York Times published an article (2) about the effects of arsenic and lead on cardiovascular disease.
Researchers did a study of 20,000 residents in Bangladesh, which is a country plagued by naturally occuring arsenic that contaminates ground water. They found an increase in deaths from cardiovascular disease and a correlation – the longer the exposure the more profound the health effects.
Another scientic study found strong evidence that exposure to lead causes hypertension with some evidence showing an increase of cardiovascular disease.