Healthy Hearts and Clean Air: An EPA Science Story


This month is American Heart Health Month. I invite you to join me in understanding how EPA scientists and their partners are learning how to better protect a group of citizens who are among the most at risk from poor air quality: those who suffer from heart and other cardiovascular diseases.

Our researchers have made important discoveries linking the impact of poor air quality on cardiovascular health. For example, EPA scientists Robert Devlin, Ph.D., and David Diaz-Sanchez and their colleagues published one of the first studies looking at the effects of ozone exposure on heart health. They discovered a link between breathing ozone and inflammation, and changes in heart rate variability, and proteins that dissolve blood clots that could be risk factors for people with heart disease.

Drs. Devlin and Diaz-Sanchez, along with EPA cardiologist Dr. Wayne Cascio, are part of an Agency effort to spread the word about the results of EPA clean air research. We will be highlighting those efforts on the Agency’s science blog, It All Starts with Science, on our science Twitter feed @EPAresearch, and elsewhere as part of our Healthy Heart Month activities.

I invite you to follow these updates and learn more about:

  • How EPA scientists are raising awareness of heart disease and its link to air pollution and other environmental factors;
  • The types of air pollutants, such as particulate matter, that can increase symptoms or cause heart attacks in people with heart disease; and
  • Steps that cardiac and other patients can take when pollutants are expected to reach unhealthy levels in their communities. Spoiler Alert! They should monitor the daily Air Quality Index (AQI) and reduce exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution on days that are code orange (“unhealthy for sensitive groups”) or higher (codes red and purple).

The pursuit of cleaner, healthier air has been a cornerstone of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment for more than 40 years. And in that time we have made remarkable progress: since just 1990, levels of six of the most important, health-related air pollutants (ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and lead) have dropped nearly 60 percent.

EPA science laid the foundation for all those achievements. And today, our researchers are committed to learning how to extend those to even the most our most vulnerable citizens. I’m grateful to our scientists who are working to make sure that everyone in this country—no matter how old they are, where they live, or the status of their health—has the air quality they need for strong, healthy hearts.

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