College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Air pollution impact on heart failure

Air pollution can increase death rates and hospital admissions among people living with heart failure, a study has shown.

University researchers, whose work is published in The Lancet medical journal, analysed data from 12 countries, including the UK, encompassing over four million cases of heart failure.

Air pollution

Since the entire population is exposed to air pollution, even modest reductions in air pollution could have major cardiovascular health benefits and substantial healthcare cost savings.

Dr Nick MillsBritish Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science

The British Heart Foundation-funded study looked at air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

It found that the effects were greatest for fine particles found in diesel exhaust fumes.

Heart Failure

In the UK over 750,000 people suffer from heart failure - a debilitating and incurable condition which accounts for around one million inpatient bed days each year.

While air pollution is known to be a risk factor for heart attacks, it has not been clear whether exposure increases the risk of other cardiovascular conditions.

We found a strong association between exposure to air pollution and admission to hospital with heart failure or death from heart failure. The effects were strongest for particulate matter found in vehicle exhaust fumes.

Dr Anoop ShahResarcher, British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence at the University

It is estimated that reducing the levels of harmful particles in air would increase average life expectancy by 7-8 months.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living each day with the impact of heart failure. This study reveals air pollution could be making these already vulnerable people even more unwell. It’s vital that the UK government meets European Commission targets to improve air quality. The benefit would not only be felt by heart failure patients, but - by reducing the cost to the NHS - our economy too.

Joseph CliftPolicy Manager at the British Heart Foundation

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, which funds research to find ways to repair damaged hearts and end the suffering caused by heart failure