Researchers Link Pollution to Cardiovascular Disease, Develop Strategies to Reduce Exposure, Encourage Government Response


Newswise – CLEVELAND–In a new review article, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from University Hospitals (UH), Case Western Reserve University and Boston College discuss evidence linking pollution and cardiovascular disease. The research team highlights strategies for reducing individual exposure to pollution and the importance of government-supported interventions promoting clean energy.

The researchers note that pollution would be responsible for nine million deaths worldwide in 2019, including 5.1 million due to cardiovascular diseases. They explain that even though these numbers are high, they likely reduce the full contribution of pollution to the global burden of cardiovascular disease, as they are based on a subset of known environmental risk factors. Attribution of health effects to pollutants can be complex, given their ubiquitous presence in the environment and the growing list of chemicals associated with human health effects.

“To date, cardiovascular disease prevention has focused almost exclusively on individual behavioral and metabolic risk factors,” said Sanjay Rajagopalan, MD, chief of cardiovascular medicine and Herman K. Hellerstein, MD, chair of cardiovascular research at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular. Institute and director of the Case Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “Pollution reduction has received little attention in cardiovascular disease control programs and has been largely absent from guidelines. “

Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP, director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good, director of the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health and professor of biology at the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society in Boston College collaborated with Dr. Rajagopalan on the exam. The researchers stress that their overarching goal is to persuade all physicians of the importance of considering pollution as a risk factor when working with their patients to prevent and control cardiovascular disease.

The article provides an overview of the cardiometabolic health effects of pollutants for physicians and describes strategies to reduce exposure to pollution. Researchers explain that the first step in preventing pollution-related cardiovascular disease is to highlight the role of pollution in disease prevention programs, medical education and clinical practice, and recognize that pollution is a factor. major and potentially preventable risk of cardiovascular disease.

The article also discusses the direct link between environmental pollutants like air pollution and the contribution to climate change. This is particularly important given that this document comes just after the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

“One of the important lessons of COP26 is that efforts to reduce emissions, adapt to climate threats and address health issues are often conducted independently,” said Dr Rajagopalan. “By keeping the focus on the health effects of pollutants, many of which are exacerbated by and contribute to climate change, there is a much higher chance of engagement by stakeholders.”

Researchers note many ways that individual physicians can bring the environmental lens to their patients.

“Doctors can qualitatively assess the risk of exposure in patients, if applicable, assess individual sensitivity and provide advice on pollution prevention,” said Dr Rajagopalan. “Very high risk patients, for example, include people with pre-existing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, or people from special demographic categories, including the elderly and transplant recipients. “

The team explains that doctors can take collective action through professional associations to persuade elected officials to reduce pollution levels for all patients in the United States. They point out that the most effective of these actions will be a massive and rapid shift from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energies, with the added benefit of slowing the pace of climate change.

Preventing pollution-related cardiovascular disease through a large-scale shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy will not only reduce cardiovascular disease and associated deaths, but will also benefit humanity by slowing the rate of climate change. . The research team concludes that the global cardiovascular disease epidemic can only be contained through a multi-pronged strategy that combines pollution prevention with the control of individual risk factors.


Rajagopalan, S. and Landrigan, P. “Pollution and the heart”. The New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056 / NEJMra2030281.

About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serve the needs of patients through an integrated network of 23 hospitals (including 5 joint ventures), more than 50 health centers and ambulatory care facilities, and more than 200 physician offices in 16 northern counties from Ohio. The system’s flagship quaternary care academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, the University of Oxford, and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. The main campus also includes the UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the country; UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital, Ohio’s only women’s hospital; and UH Seidman Cancer Center, which is part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. The UH is home to some of the country’s most prestigious clinical and research programs, with more than 3,000 clinical trials and research studies underway. UH Cleveland Medical Center is consistently among the top performers in nationwide ranking polls, including US News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals in America”. The UH is also home to 19 research and clinical care institutes. UH is one of Northeast Ohio’s largest employers with over 30,000 employees. Follow UH on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. For more information, visit

Case Western Reserve University is one of the country’s leading private research institutions. Located in Cleveland, we offer a unique combination of cutting-edge educational opportunities in an inspiring cultural setting. Our cutting-edge faculty engage in teaching and research in a collaborative and hands-on environment. Our nationally recognized programs include the arts and sciences, dentistry, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. Approximately 5,800 undergraduates and 6,300 graduate students make up our student body. Visit to see how Case Western Reserve thinks beyond the possible.


Comments are closed.