heart disease

EPA Study Shows Poverty Is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Cross posted from Science category.

By Ann Brown

In 2008, lightning started a peat bog wildfire in eastern North Carolina. Dry peat is an organic material that makes a perfect fuel for fire. For weeks the fire smoldered, blanketing communities in 44 rural counties with toxic air pollutants that exceeded EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards at times. As a result, many people went to the emergency department with congestive heart failure, asthma and other health problems from smoke exposure as documented in an EPA study.

Untitled-1The wildfire provided a unique opportunity for researchers to evaluate the reasons behind the heart and respiratory problems caused from smoke exposure. They were interested in whether there are community characteristics than can be used to identify residents whose health might be at risk from wildfires or other sources of air pollution. What exactly did the communities along the Coastal Plain of North Carolina have in common?

Researchers analyzed daily rates of visits to the emergency departments during the fire event and community health factors such as access and quality of clinical care, health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and the characteristics of the physical environment. The findings, published in Environmental Health, indicate low socio-economic status alone can be used to determine if a community is at risk for congestive heart failure or other health problems observed. Low socio-economic status is a term used to describe a group of factors such as low income, inadequate education and safety concerns.

While the knowledge that people in poverty are at greater health risk from air pollution is not new, this study provides scientific evidence that a community’s socio-economic status can be used to identify those at greatest risk from air pollution. This is good news for the public health community and others interested in reaching people with heart or lung diseases who may be at risk of air pollution. This study and others being conducted across the country by epidemiologists are helping to find ways to address health problems in communities.

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Are Your Genes Making You Susceptible to Air Pollution?

 

Healthy Heart graphic identifier

 

By Ann Brown

Smoking, high-fat diets and a couch potato lifestyle are risk factors for heart disease.  Kicking the habit, changing your diet and exercising are ways to reduce those risks and enhance quality of life.

But there may be a risk factor for heart disease that is more complicated to address: our genes. Our genetic makeup that we inherit from our parents may contribute to the development of heart disease, but our genes may also play a role in how our cardiovascular system responds to air pollution.  

We all have the same set of genes, but there are subtle differences in the makeup of those genes that vary from one person to another.  These individual variations are called polymorphisms and have been shown to make some people more susceptible to things like breast cancer or diabetes. 

Research has shown that high levels of air pollution, particularly fine particles emitted by cars, trucks, factories and wildfires, can trigger heart attacks and worsen heart symptoms in people who have heart disease. But are some people with heart disease more responsive to high levels of air pollution than others because of their genes?  

EPA researchers and collaborators are investigating the contributions genes may have in the way individuals respond to air pollution exposure. The study is made possible by tapping into a unique database of genetic and clinical information called CATHGEN, developed by Duke University Medical Center. The database contains health information from nearly 10,000 volunteers, most who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. 

The database is providing an opportunity for EPA and other environmental health researchers to ask whether specific genetic variations make people more susceptible to the damaging effects of air pollution on the heart. While people cannot change their genetic make-up, it is hoped that the knowledge gained from this research can one day be used by health care providers to educate their patients with heart disease. Heart patients don’t have to wait for more research to take action, however.

EPA recommends people who are more sensitive to air pollution, such as those with heart disease, take steps to reduce their exposure during times when pollution levels are higher. You can check current and forecasted air quality conditions at www.airnow.gov.

Learn more at: epa.gov/healthyheart

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA Study Shows Poverty Is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Every day EPA researchers are advancing our understanding of how air pollution threatens heart health. We will be sharing some of the important studies under way and research discoveries during February in recognition of American Heart Month.

Healthy Heart graphic identifier

By Ann Brown

In 2008, lightening started a peat bog wildfire in eastern North Carolina. Dry peat is an organic material that makes a perfect fuel for fire. For weeks the fire smoldered, blanketing communities in 44 rural counties with toxic air pollutants that exceeded EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards at times. As a result, many people went to the emergency department with congestive heart failure, asthma and other health problems from smoke exposure as documented in an EPA study.

The wildfire provided a unique opportunity for researchers to evaluate the reasons behind the heart and respiratory problems caused from smoke exposure. They were interested in whether there are community characteristics than can be used to identify residents whose health might be at risk from wildfires or other sources of air pollution. What exactly did the communities along the Coastal Plain of North Carolina have in common?

Researchers analyzed daily rates of visits to the emergency departments during the fire event and community health factors such as access and quality of clinical care, health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and the characteristics of the physical environment. The findings, published in Environmental Health, indicate low socio-economic status alone can be used to determine if a community is at risk for congestive heart failure or other health problems observed. Low socio-economic status is a term used to describe a group of factors such as low income, inadequate education and safety concerns.

While the knowledge that people in poverty are at greater health risk from air pollution is not new, this study provides scientific evidence that a community’s socio-economic status can be used to identify those at greatest risk from air pollution. This is good news for the public health community and others interested in reaching people with heart or lung diseases who may be at risk of air pollution. This study and others being conducted across the country by epidemiologists are helping to find ways to address health problems in communities. 

About the Author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

Tweet! Tweet!
Remember to join us for a Twitter Chat with EPA research cardiologist Dr. Wayne Cascio tomorrow, February 20, at 2:30 pm. Follow #HealthyHeart or @EPAlive.

Be Smart, Protect Your Heart from Air Pollution

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Let’s Talk About Air Pollution and Heart Disease

Reposted from “It’s Our Environment

Please Note: Due to the developing winter storm, we have rescheduled the Twitter chat with EPA research cardiologist Dr. Wayne Casio until Thursday, February 20 at 2:30 pm. Follow #HealthyHeart or @EPAlive. The following blog was updated from the original to reflect that change.

By Ann Brown

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a good time to remember matters of the heart. Did you know that air pollution can trigger heart attacks and strokes, and worsen heart conditions? With one in three Americans having heart disease, there’s a good possibility that you know people with problems. Learn what we know about the effects of air pollution and help protect them.

Join our live twitter chat on Thursday, February 20th at 2:30 PM ET to learn more about the threats of air pollution to the heart and ways to protect yours. Follow @EPAlive and the #HealthyHeart hashtag to join the conversation. We’ll share information about air pollution and heart disease so that you and your loved ones can take action to protect yourselves. During the chat, we’ll also tweet in Spanish on @EPAespanol using the hashtag #corazonsano.

Dr. Wayne Cascio, a cardiologist who researches these issues at EPA, will be available during the chat to discuss:

  • what we know about air pollution and its connection to heart disease and stroke,
  • how to reduce your risk, and
  • how science is helping us better understand how air pollution can harm the heart.

Feel free to post your questions now in the comment section below, or tweet them when you join us for the chat on February 20. We’ll answer as many questions as we can during the chat. Also, read more about the connection between air pollution and heart disease on our healthy heart website.

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program in Research Triangle Park, NC, which is the hub for EPA’s research to protect public health and the environment from outdoor air pollution.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Let’s Talk About Air Pollution and Heart Disease

Editor’s note: Due to a major ice and snow storm on the east coast on February 12th and 13th, we’re rescheduling our #HealthyHeart Twitter chat to Thursday, February 20th at 2:30 PM ET. Join us then to talk about air pollution and heart health. Follow @EPAlive and the #HealthyHeart hashtag on Twitter to ask questions and participate. For Spanish, follow @EPAespanol and #corazonsano.

By Ann Brown

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a good time to remember matters of the heart. Did you know that air pollution can trigger heart attacks and strokes, and worsen heart conditions? With one in three Americans having heart disease, there’s a good possibility that you know people with problems. Learn what we know about the effects of air pollution and help protect them.

Join our live twitter chat on Thursday, February 13th at 1:30 PM ET to learn more about the threats of air pollution to the heart and ways to protect yours. Follow @EPAlive and the #HealthyHeart hashtag to join the conversation. We’ll share information about air pollution and heart disease so that you and your loved ones can take action to protect yourselves. During the chat, we’ll also tweet in Spanish on @EPAespanol using the hashtag #corazonsano.

Dr. Wayne Cascio, a cardiologist who researches these issues at EPA, will be available during the chat to discuss:

  • what we know about air pollution and its connection to heart disease and stroke,
  • how to reduce your risk, and
  • how science is helping us better understand how air pollution can harm the heart.

Feel free to post your questions now in the comment section below, or tweet them when you join us for the chat on February 13. We’ll answer as many questions as we can during the chat. Also, read more about the connection between air pollution and heart disease on our healthy heart website.

 

 

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program in Research Triangle Park, NC, which is the hub for EPA’s research to protect public health and the environment from outdoor air pollution.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Healthy Hearts and Clean Air: An EPA Science Story

healthy-heart-banner

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.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Dr. King’s Dream and Environmental Justice

Untitled-2

Reposted from EPA Connect

By Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming

President Obama will mark the anniversary of the March on Washington today at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech 50 years ago.  As we all reflect on Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his influence on American society, let’s also celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of social and environmental justice.

Dr. King was a pioneer on many fronts. He fought to raise awareness about urban environmental issues and public health concerns that disproportionately affect communities of color – issues that are still relevant today. We have made tremendous progress in the past 50 years, but our work is not done.

As I reflect on this anniversary, my thoughts go to scripture. I am reminded of the passage from Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

This sentiment of stewardship is what led me to join the Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, we work every day to safeguard our environment – the environment with which we have been entrusted – for future generations.

Something we don’t think about often enough is that ensuring basic environmental protections for all is a civil rights issue – one that we have yet to resolve. Our low income and minority neighborhoods suffer disproportionate health impacts, like asthma and heart disease, due to harmful pollution in the air, land and water.

We must work to correct these injustices now as we face one of the great environmental challenges of our time – climate change.

We know that our climate is changing. Extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, floods and drought are becoming more and more common. And low income neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather because of aging infrastructure and limited means to escape the devastation.  Our nation’s poorest communities are already bearing the brunt of this devastation, and will continue to do so if we don’t act now.

President Obama recently announced a Climate Action Plan that calls for us to work together to improve the resiliency of our communities so that we can provide protection to those who need it most.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, let’s also reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. As Dr. King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We must redouble our efforts to protect people’s health and the environment in all of our communities.

About the Author: Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming serves as Chief of Staff to the Administrator. Ms. Fleming was appointed by President Obama as Region 4 (Atlanta) Regional Administrator of the EPA in September 2010, the first African-American to hold this position. Previously, she served as the first African-American and first woman DeKalb County District Attorney and Solicitor General. She was the youngest ever elected as Solicitor General. Ms. Fleming is a New Jersey native and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Douglass College and she earned her law degree from the Emory University School of Law. Ms. Fleming credits her parents, Ursula Keyes, a retired registered nurse and her late father, Andrew J. Keyes, a former Tuskegee Airman, as the reason for her commitment to community service.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Go Red and Now Green for Heart Month

By Wayne Cascio

Since 2004, when the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign began, the arrival of February has always renewed my commitment as a cardiologist to educate my patients and the public about the steps they can take to prevent heart and blood vessel disease. Go Red has produced measurable gains in the public’s knowledge about heart disease among women and men. Yet, did you know that over 800,000 still die in the U.S. each year from heart disease?

Most of us now know that we can reduce our risk from heart disease by eating a healthy diet, remaining physically active, not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and taking aspirin when appropriate. Yet there is another risk factor that many may not have considered: air pollution. That brings in the Green Heart for February.

Exposure to air particle pollution affects heart and blood vessel health adversely and causes deaths. The good news is that falling air pollution levels over the past 30 years correlate with increased longevity. Still, exposure to air pollutants, particularly among those most vulnerable, continues to contribute to at least 40,000 deaths from heart disease in the U.S. each year. So, 5% or more of heart disease deaths are possibly related to air pollution exposure.

Now, as a researcher at EPA, I am involved in a different way to address heart disease than during my practice to treat patients. EPA researchers are studying the impacts of air pollution on our health with a focus on those with heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. These studies have and are advancing our understanding of the health risks of air pollutants and who is most vulnerable to them.

Research and public education are important in the fight against heart disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and their partners launched a national initiative called Million Hearts™ to decrease heart attacks and strokes by 1 million over the next five years. To support and complement this effort, EPA initiated the Green Heart campaign to increase awareness among public and health professionals and individuals that air pollution is a risk for those with heart disease.

By adopting a heart healthy lifestyle, managing high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, stopping smoking and using aspirin when appropriate, and checking daily air quality, a significant public health benefit can be achieved.

A very valuable tool for helping to monitor your daily risk to air pollution is EPA’s Air Quality Index. You can also learn more about environmental risk factors and steps to decrease exposure and risk in educational materials prepared by EPA.
I hope that you will share this red and green valentine message with a friend or loved one and help to save a life from heart attack.

About the author: Wayne Cascio, MD is the Director of the Environmental Public Health Division of NHEERL, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Fellow of the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Cascio is a cardiologist and environmental health scientist studying the effects of air pollution on the heart and blood vessels.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.