Living near the highway spikes death rate for heart attack survivors

 
By Sierra Mision • Published: July 12th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Living five minutes from the highway might be convenient for your travel time, but it could hurt your heart.

According to researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, heart attack survivors living less than 300 feet from a highway have a 27 percent higher risk of dying within 10 years than those who live at least six-tenths of a mile from the same roadway.

The study supports the belief that long-term exposure to constant, heavy traffic increases the risk of death in patients with heart disease. It also reinforces the need for city planners to build housing developments away from major highways.

It’s the chronic air pollution from vehicles that threatens survivors’ health. Even at pollution levels federal regulations consider safe, living alongside dirty air increases the risk of stroke for heart attack survivors by more than a third.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States, and is responsible for one out of every four deaths. Every year, an estimated 785,000 people will have their first heart attack. Another 470,000 who have already had one will have another.

A 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while 92 percent of people knew chest pain was a sign of a heart attack, only 27 percent knew all the major signs. Discomfort in the upper body — in the arms, back, neck or jaw — and shortness of breath also indicate a heart problem and require immediate emergency care.

Monitoring lifestyle choices can curb your risk for heart attacks and disease. Cutting cigarette and alcohol use, as well as lowering cholesterol and blood-pressure levels, reduce the risk for problems. Adopting a regular, three-day-a-week exercise plan can also help keep the heart healthy.

And making sure your house isn’t next to a highway just might help, too.