(HealthDay News) — Air pollution is associated with significant increases in heart attacks among nonsmokers, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022, held from Aug. 26 to 29 in Barcelona, Spain.

Insa de Buhr-Stockburger, MD, from the Berlin Brandenburg Myocardial Infarction Registry, and colleagues examined the association between nitric oxide, particulate matter (PM₁₀), and weather variables with the incidence of myocardial infarction (MI) in Berlin. The analysis included 17,873 MI cases from 2008 to 2014.

The researchers found a highly significant, independent association between overall MI incidence and same-day mean values of nitric oxide concentrations and with the average PM₁₀ concentration over the preceding 3 days. MI incidence variation with same-day nitric oxide was 3.2%, and variation with PM₁₀ in the preceding three days was 4.8%. There was an inverse relationship between daily peak ambient temperature and MI incidence. No associations were seen for sunshine duration and precipitation. Nitric oxide and PM₁₀ pollution did not affect MI incidence in current smokers.

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“The study indicates that dirty air is a risk factor for acute myocardial infarction and more efforts are needed to lower pollution from traffic and combustion,” de Buhr-Stockburger said in a statement. “Causation cannot be established by an observational study. It is plausible that air pollution is a contributing cause of myocardial infarction, given that nitric oxide and PM₁₀ promote inflammation, atherosclerosis is partly caused by inflammatory processes, and no associations were found in smokers.”

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