Risk of Cardiac Arrest Increases in Areas with Greater Pollution


If you suffer from a chronic medical condition and live in an urban area, you may want to reconsider your location. Experts are now finding a link between episodes of cardiac arrest and high levels of ozone and pollution in the atmosphere.


Cardiac arrest, when your heart suddenly stops pumping, has a variety of risk factors including but not limited to stents, heart attacks, bypass surgery, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, emphysema, smoking and a family history of heart disease. Living in a polluted environment may soon be added to that list.

Katherine Ensor of Rice University compared a database of cardiac arrests that occurred outside of hospitals in the Houston area to air quality records between 2004 and 2011. What she concluded: There’s a small, but significant connection between the amounts of ozone and particulate matter and cardiac arrests. When the average amount of ozone rose by 20 parts per billion (a fairly drastic increase), cardiac arrest risk went up by 4.4 percent. 

What’s New

Researchers have linked living in a polluted city to an increased risk of cardiovascular events for awhile, and previous studies have tied the particulate matter from ozone depletion to asthma and lung conditions. However, this new research provides a clear linkage between atmospheric conditions and cardiac arrests.

What to Look Out For

Right now more research will need to be done on the subject; however some experts speculate changes in the way we talk about ozone depletion and particulate matter in the future.

For example, some experts call for a daily ozone forecast for high-risk citizens. A sort of “for those of you with heart conditions, today is the day to stay inside and get your laundry done.”

Another change we may see in the coming years is more attention to where certain athletic events, like marathons, are held as result of pollution in the hosting city.

Either way, it’s important to understand the risk factors in regards to your genetic history and health disposition. If you’re someone at high risk for cardiac arrest, beware of traveling, relocating or living in an area that could potentially put your health at a greater risk than necessary. Not sure what those cities are? Weather.com ranks the most polluted cities, and here are their top 10:

  1. Bakersfield, CA
  2. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  5. Fresno-Madera, CA
  6. Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
  7. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
  8. Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, OH-KY-IN
  9. Louisville-Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg, KY-IN
  10. Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD

Or check out the full list of the most polluted cities.

By Jennifer Wolfe

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