The American Heart Association has issued an alert warning that air pollution caused by smoke from wildfires can damage the heart as much as it damages the lungs. The alert was prompted by the smoke from over 400 Canadian wildfires that has swept south and turned New York City into a landscape that resembles Mars more than Earth. While the impact of wildfire smoke on respiratory health is well known, the alert highlights the impact on cardiovascular health. Wildfire smoke contains a lot of pollutants, including fine, microscopic particles linked to cardiovascular risk. People in areas where the smoke is thick or starting to build are advised to check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s zip code-level tracking map of current air quality. They should also stay informed about any special alerts sent by the local health department. To reduce exposure to wildfire smoke, people are advised to stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed, use high-efficiency air filters in air conditioning systems or portable air cleaners. If it is too warm to stay inside, people should consider staying somewhere else temporarily. Pets may also be affected by the smoke, so it’s a good idea to bring them indoors as much as possible. The use of portable air cleaners has been shown to reduce indoor particulate matter by as much as 50-60%. Given their modest upfront cost and potential benefits in reducing cardiopulmonary outcomes, this measure has a high benefit for the cost. Exposure to heavy smoke during wildfires has been found to raise the risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests up to 70%. That risk was elevated in both men and women, among adults aged 35 to 64 and in communities with lower socioeconomic status. Wildfire smoke exposure was also associated with increased rates of emergency room visits for heart disease, irregular heart rhythm, heart failure, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.
Smoke from Canadian Wildfires Poses Heart Risks, Experts Say