Dangerous vascular damage: cardiovascular diseases due to air pollution
Air pollution - and above all particulate matter pollution - poses a global health risk. Every year, more than four million people worldwide die from the consequences. As researchers now report, the bad air is particularly harmful to our heart health.
Health effects of air pollution
As an international team of researchers reported in the journal "Nature" years ago, around 35,000 people die in Germany alone from the consequences of air pollution. Health experts assume around four million deaths worldwide each year. A high level of particulate matter not only weakens the lungs, it also causes millions of cases of type 2 diabetes and increases the risk of Alzheimer's. Above all, air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases.
Fine dust in particular is dangerous
Air pollution, primarily fine dust, is responsible for more than four million deaths worldwide each year.
Most deaths (almost 60 percent) result from cardiovascular diseases.
The large percentage of deaths from cardiovascular diseases caused an international group of experts from Germany, England and the USA to analyze the negative effects of air pollution on vascular function.
The results of the scientists led by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Münzel, Director of Cardiology I at the Center for Cardiology at Mainz University Medical Center, has now been published in an overview article in the "European Heart Journal".
Vessels are damaged
Central research questions were which components of air pollution (fine dust, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide) are particularly harmful to the cardiovascular system and which mechanisms damage the vessels.
"This report in the latest edition of the European Heart Journal is another important contribution of our working group on environment and cardiovascular diseases," said Professor Münzel, according to a message.
"In summary, it can be said that - in relation to the vascular-damaging effects of air pollution - fine dust plays an outstanding role," said the expert.
“We are particularly concerned about the ultrafine dust here. This is the size of a virus. When the ultrafine dust is inhaled, it immediately goes into the blood via the lungs, is absorbed by the vessels and causes inflammation locally, ”said Münzel.
"Ultimately, this requires more atherosclerosis (vascular calcification) and thus leads to more cardiovascular diseases than heart attacks, acute heart attacks, heart failure or even cardiac arrhythmias."
And further: "It is also interesting that the particulate matter and not the nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which both arise from the combustion of diesel fuel, has a negative impact on the vascular function in relation to the much discussed diesel exhaust gases."
Emissions have to be reduced
The other participants in the expert group are the fine dust researcher Sanjay Rajagopalan from the Cleveland Clinic (USA), the vascular researcher and cardiology John Deanfield from the Institute for Cardiovascular Science in London, Univ.-Prof. Andreas Daiber, Head of Molecular Cardiology at University Medicine Mainz and Prof. Jos Lelieveld from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz.
“The fine dust particles are mainly formed chemically in the atmosphere from emissions from traffic, industry and agriculture. In order to achieve low, harmless concentrations, emissions from all these sources have to be reduced, ”commented Professor Lelieveld.
"In the future, we will work intensively with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry to investigate the causes of cardiovascular diseases that are caused by air pollution, particularly in combination with (flight) noise," added Münzel. (ad)