Pollution Increases Heart Disease for Menopausal Women

When it comes to your heart, it’s not just love that’s in the air

People and traffic on 5th avenue
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Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women over the age of fifty. If you live in an urban area, you should be aware that postmenopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease if they live in a neighborhood where pollution is high.

In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the medical records of over 65,000 women from 36 U.S. metropolitan areas were reviewed. None of the women had a previous history of heart disease.

During the study period of six years, about 1800 of those women had one or more cardiovascular events (heart attack or stroke). Measurements for particulate matter (pollution) in the air were noted by taking the measurements from the air monitor nearest each woman’s home. Results showed that exposure over time to fine particulate air pollution is associated with cardiovascular disease and death in postmenopausal women. The worse the pollution, the higher the risk.

This study adds yet another factor to consider when trying to reduce your postmenopausal risks. Since the danger is higher with longer exposure, it is never too soon to start taking precautions to limit your exposure to pollution. If you live in a polluted area, you may want to:

  • Stay inside during “bad air” days when inversions or other weather conditions make the air dangerously polluted
  • Wear a mask if you have to go out on high-pollution days
  • Get an air purifier for your home, or add one to the furnace and run it on high-pollution days
  • Avoid situations that require you to stay in congested traffic or in enclosed garages and parking ramps for any period of time

If you stay in an urban area, do everything you can to limit the amount of those tiny particles that make it into your lungs and heart.

As the years go by, you may be able to further reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by being careful along the way to screen out the pollution. The risk of pollution is one that accumulates over time. The more exposure, the greater the risk, so start as early as possible being aware of the link between bad air and a bad heart.


Miller, KA, Siscovick, DS, Sheppard, L, Shepherd, K, Sullivan, JH, Anderson, GL, Kaufman,JD, " Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Incidence of Cardiovascular Events in Women"New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 356, No. 5, 447-458, Feb. 1, 2007. 28 Nov. 2007.

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