People who relocate abroad to polluted climes could have a greater risk of having to fund chronic heart disease treatments through their expatriate medical insurance policies, a new study has indicated.
The research, from Tel Aviv University (TAU), found cardiac patients who lived in areas with the highest levels of pollution were significantly more likely to have a second heart attack when compared to those in the cleanest regions.
Dr Yariv Gerber of TAU's School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Professor Yaacov Drory conducted the study, which was presented to the Annual Meeting of the Israeli Heart Society and the San Diego Epidemiological Meeting of the American Heart Association.
International healthcare research projects have already determined that airborne pollutants can lead to a number of medical risks, including those relating to heart attacks.
Therefore, this investigation's aim was to quantify the link between these two factors and understand the long-term effects poor air quality has on sufferers of myocardial infarctions (MI).
A total of 1,120 first-time MI patients were looked at during the study, which also involved the analysis of 21 monitoring stations in areas inhabited by the participants.
People who lived in the most polluted locations were 43 per cent more likely to suffer from congestive heart failure or have another heart attack than those in the cleanest areas, with a 46 per cent higher risk of suffering from a stroke.
Furthermore, the likelihood of death was also significantly elevated, with those in regions with dirtier air 35 per cent more likely to be deceased after two decades than those exposed to the lowest levels of pollution.
Scientists were careful to adjust for factors including the severity of the disease and the participant's socio-economic status, but still found this strong association between recurrent vascular events, mortality and pollutants.
"Our method of assessing exposure does have limitations. Because we are using data from monitoring stations, it's a crude estimate of exposure, which most likely leads to an underestimation of the association," Dr Geber warned.
According to the World Health Organisation, 17 million people die of cardiovascular diseases every year, with strokes and heart attacks some of the most common forms of these fatal events.