Living near a motorway hikes your risk of dying after a heart attack



15:18 GMT, 8 May 2012

Living close to a major road poses a significant risk to heart attack survivors, a study has found.

Researchers found heart attack survivors living less than 100 metres from a carriageway had a 27 per cent higher risk of death within 10 years than survivors living at least 1,000 metres away.

The team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston added that the risk receded to 13 per cent for those living between 200 and 1,000-metres from the traffic.

Harmful highway

Harmful highway The study is the latest to suggest long-term exposure to roadways can worsen health for those with heart disease

Lead author Dr Murray Mittleman said: 'Living close to a highway is associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes in those with underlying cardiac disease.

'Besides air pollution, exposure to noise could be a possible mechanism underlying this association.'

The study of more than 3,500 heart attack survivors in 64 medical centres recorded 1,071 deaths over 10 years. Of that total, 63 per cent of the patients died of cardiovascular disease, 12 percent died of cancer and four per cent died from respiratory disease.

Researchers analysed factors such as personal, clinical and neighborhood-level characteristics such as income and education.

Dr Mittleman said: 'People with lower levels of education and income are more likely to live in communities closer to a major roadway, so they are bearing a larger burden of the risk associated with exposure than people with more resources.'

In a study published earlier this year, a team led by Dr Mittleman found air pollution, even at levels generally considered safe by federal regulations, increases the risk of stroke by 34 per cent.

Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter, generally from vehicle traffic, was associated with a significantly higher risk of ischemic strokes on days when the EPA’s air quality index for particulate matter was yellow instead of green.

These finding provide new evidence that long-term exposure to roadways is associated with an increased risk of death in patients with underlying cardiovascular disease. Writing in the latest edition of Circulation

'Clinicians need to educate their patients on the risks posed by particulate matter pollution and encourage patients with cardiovascular disease to avoid unnecessary exposure to traffic,' said Dr Mittleman.

'On a public policy level, city planners should consider locating housing developments away from the most heavily trafficked roadways.'

Dan Costa from the U.S Enviromental Protection Agency, said: 'This study adds to the growing knowledge linking roadways and traffic to health problems, even death, especially among those with pre-existent disease – in this case a previous heart attack.'