Three Hidden Risks for Heart Trouble
You probably know many risk factors for heart trouble: extra weight, lack of exercise, poor diet, etc. Other risk factors, however, are almost unknown – even among doctors.
A series of new studies has uncovered three sneak attacks that can seriously damage your heart. Here’s what you need to know to protect your health.
Sneak Attack #1: Air Pollution.
We’ve known for a long time that air pollution is bad for your lungs. But new research from New York shows that a certain type of air pollution can wreck your heart’s health, too.
Researchers compared the number of certain heart problems, day by day, with the pollution levels in New York City. And they found a clear link. On warm days, when a certain form of pollution was high, these heart problems increased by as much as 10%.1
So what was this pollution? It’s called particulate matter (PM) – or fine particles. Although PM can come from natural causes – such as volcanoes – fossil fuels pump most of the PM into our air.
Perhaps the most disturbing information from this study is the fact that these jumps in heart trouble occurred well below the government’s limits for PM in the air. In other words, what was once considered “safe” obviously isn’t.
Sneak Attack #2 – Hiding from the Sun
I’ve written to you before about how avoiding sun exposure has starved many Americans of vitamin D. And I’ve mentioned several ways this can affect your health – most notably by weakening your bones.
But two new studies from Utah show that the epidemic shortage of vitamin D is bad for your heart, too.
One study looked at more than 31,000 people – and determined that low levels of vitamin D contribute to a greater risk of high blood pressure, blood sugar trouble, and several other heart problems.2
Like the air pollution study, this one also discovered that accepted standards aren’t effective. The researchers found that vitamin D offers the most benefit at levels almost 50% higher than the current government guidelines.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. If you get about 15 – 20 minutes of sun exposure on your face and arms every day, your body can make plenty of vitamin D.
Sneak Attack #3 – Jobs That Hurt Your Heart
You might think that jobs involving high stress increase the risk of heart trouble. And you’d be right. But another type of job does, too.
I’m talking about noisy jobs.
Canadian scientists looked at 6,307 workers over 5 years and made a shocking discovery. People who were regularly exposed to loud noises at work had 2 to 3 times the risk of heart trouble of those who worked at less noisy jobs.3
One group in particular is at highest risk. The researchers found that men under 50 who smoked had more than quadruple the risk of those who worked at quieter jobs!
None of these “sneak attacks” are situations we’d usually think of in terms of heart health. But all of them can contribute to your risk. Avoiding these situations can help you manage your risk – and keep your heart healthier longer.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
1 Silverman RA, et al. Association of Ambient Fine Particles With Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests in New York City. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Aug 20. [Epub ahead of print]
2 See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315161716.htm.
3Gan WQ, et al. Exposure to occupational noise and cardiovascular disease in the United States: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2004. Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oem.2010.055269.