Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in Michigan and the United States. A heart attack, also called an acute myocardial infarction, happens when part of the heart muscle gets damaged or dies because it isn’t getting enough oxygen through blood flow. This is usually caused by a blocked artery in the heart. Some risk factors for heart attacks are lifestyle choices, genetics, and environmental factors, including air pollution.
Air Quality and Heart Disease
There are many types of air pollution, but particulate matter (PM) air pollution seems to be especially damaging to the heart and lungs. PM is made up of small particles in the air and include dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and little drops of liquid. Sources of PM from human activity include vehicle exhaust, power plants, industry, and outdoor wood boilers. Natural sources include windblown soil and outdoor wood and grass fires. Studies show that breathing in PM can trigger heart attacks and strokes, and worsen heart failure.
Who is at risk of having a heart attack?
Some people are at higher risk of having a heart attack:
- Adults age 65 and older
- Racial and ethnic minorities
- People who already have heart disease
- People with a family history of heart disease
- People who smoke cigarettes
- Non-smokers who are exposed to cigarette smoke
- People with high cholesterol
- People with high blood pressure
- People who are overweight or obese
- People with diabetes
What can you do to prevent heart disease?
There are actions you can take to treat or control heart disease:
- Talk to your doctor about your health.
- Quit smoking, or cut down on the amount you smoke. If you do smoke, be sure to do it away from others, especially children. Help is available to quit smoking.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol level down by eating right and exercising.
- Have your blood pressure measured, and take steps to lower it if your blood pressure is higher than normal.
- Check the Air Quality Index to learn when PM air pollution might affect you. You can also sign up to receive air quality alerts from EnviroFlash.
- When PM levels are at unhealthy levels, spend more time inside and take it easy when you’re outside.
- Take blood pressure and cholesterol medications as prescribed by your doctor.
What are the warning signs of heart attack?
- Chest pain or uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck, or back
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Shortness of breath
If you have these symptoms, call 911 immediately!
What heart attack data are available on the MiTracking data portal?
The data portal includes this heart attack indicator:
- Hospitalizations for heart attacks
The data can tell us:
- The number of hospitalizations for heart attack among persons 35 and older
- The crude rate of hospitalization for heart attack among persons 35 and older per 10,000 people
- The age-adjusted rate of hospitalization for heart attack among persons 35 and older per 10,000 people
However, the data cannot tell us:
- The exact cause of heart attacks
- The total number of people affected, cost, effect, result, or consequence of heart attacks
- The total number of people who have had a heart attack but did not go to the hospital
For more information about heart attacks, visit these websites.
American Heart Association
Environmental Protection Agency
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention