Environmental factors predict risk of death

A recent study reveals that environmental variables like air pollution, together with high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking, are highly predictive of people's odds of dying, particularly from heart attack and stroke.

The study, conducted by experts from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, revealed that exposure to above average levels of outdoor air pollution increased risk of mortality by 20% and risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 17%.

Cooking meals on wood or kerosene stoves that aren't adequately vented through a chimney increases total mortality risk by 23% and cardiovascular death risk by 9%, respectively (by 36 percent and 19 percent ). Living close to busy roadways and distant from specialized medical centers both raise the chance of dying.

Findings from personal and environmental health data gathered from 50,045 largely underprivileged rural people in Iran's northeastern Golestan area are published online in the journal PLOS ONE on June 24. All study participants were above age 40 and volunteered to have their health evaluated during annual visits with researchers going as far back as 2004.

Researchers claim that their most recent analysis offers much-needed scientific evidence from people in low- and middle-income nations, as well as identifying environmental elements that are most dangerous to heart and general health. The researchers point out that traditional research on environmental risk factors has favored urban people in high-income nations because they have much easier access to contemporary health care facilities.

Living farther from clinics with catheterization labs that can open blocked arteries, for example, raised the chance of mortality by 1% for every 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of distance, in comparison to people who had better access to specialist medical treatments. Most residents in Golestan reside more than 50 miles (80 km) distant from such modern facilities.

The study's findings also revealed a 13 percent higher risk of mortality for the third of individuals who lived less than 500 meters (1,640 feet) from a major road.

"Our study highlights the role that key environmental factors of indoor/outdoor air pollution, access to modern health services, and proximity to noisy, polluted roadways play in all causes of death and deaths from cardiovascular disease in particular," according to study senior author and cardiologist Rajesh Vedanthan, MD, MPH.

"Our findings help broaden the disease-risk profile beyond age and traditional personal risk factors," explains Vedanthan, an assistant professor at the NYU Langone Health Department of Population Health and Department of Medicine.

"These results illustrate a new opportunity for health policymakers to reduce the burden of disease in their communities by mitigating the impact of environmental risk factors like air pollution on cardiovascular health," says Michael Hadley, MD, the study's primary author and an upcoming assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai.

The study, in contrast, demonstrated that other environmental factors included in the analysis, such as low neighborhood income levels, increased population density, and excessive exposure to nighttime light, were not independent predictors of risk of death, despite prior research in mostly urban settings suggesting otherwise.

Data collected until December 2018 was evaluated by researchers for the inquiry. After that, they developed a prediction model for the likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease and total mortality.

The study team intends to carry out more investigation and expects to apply the prediction model to other nations in order to improve its ability to anticipate the future. They claim that their new tool might be used as a reference for assessing whether changes to the environment, way of living, and individual health have an impact on death rates throughout the world.

According to the World Health Organization, environmental factors such as poor air and water quality, a lack of sanitation, and exposure to harmful chemicals now account for 25 percent of all fatalities globally.

Story Source: Materials provided by NYU Langone Health/NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reference: Michael B. Hadley, Mahdi Nalini, Samrachana Adhikari, Jackie Szymonifka, Arash Etemadi, Farin Kamangar, Masoud Khoshnia, Tyler McChane, Akram Pourshams, Hossein Poustchi, Sadaf G. Sepanlou, Christian Abnet, Neal D. Freedman, Paolo Boffetta, Reza Malekzadeh, Rajesh Vedanthan. Spatial environmental factors predict cardiovascular and all-cause mortality: Results of the SPACE study. PLOS ONE, 2022; 17 (6): e0269650 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0269650