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Cardiovascular disease is the most common non-communicable disease in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Traditional recognized risk factors for heart disease include obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The American Heart Association estimates that heart disease and stroke cost the nation an estimated $555 billion in health care costs and lost productivity in 2016.
But did you know worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for 25% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease? The World Health Organization estimates that 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to ambient air pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children.
Dr. Wayne Cascio- a cardiologist and director of EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory initiated EPA’s Healthy Heart program to investigate the problem of air quality and heart disease. Current treatment for heart disease requires people to change their behavior: for example, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking medication. But what if we could improve prevention by reducing exposure to air pollution? What if we could change the broader social factors including community level actions, improved healthcare infrastructure, and improve environmental quality?