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How can the environment affect our cardiovascular health?

EuroPrevent Congress News - Lisbon

As is customary for EAPC’s annual congress, EuroPrevent 2019 covers a broad range of topics related to how the large burden of cardiovascular (CV) disease can be reduced and prevented. On Thursday, at a symposium entitled ‘Environment: A new risk factor?’ (11:00 – 12:30; Lisboa), we will hear more about how the environment can act as determinants or potentiators of CVD.

Risk Factors, Prevention, Rehabilitation, Sports Cardiology
Environmental and Occupational Aspects of Heart Disease


vassiliou-vass-2019.jpgDoctor Vass Vassiliou, Chair-Elect of the Section of Population Science and Public Health and the Chair of Thursday’s session, provided some background: “It is well known that air pollution adversely affects general health and particularly CV health. Researchers have investigated which aspects of air pollution cause harm and found a direct effect of microparticles. There is also the possibility that high noise levels, such as that from aircraft, may also be associated with increased CV events. A working theory is that noise can cause sleep disturbances, and this may lead to an adverse effect on vasculature and endocrine function and in the first presentation we expect to hear more about the adverse effect of noise pollution in particular.

A presentation on air pollution itself will then discuss whether contaminated air negates the benefits of outdoor sports. In general, only when pollution is very severe will it outweigh the positive aspects of exercising outdoors.

At the EAPC, we try to promote that exercise and physical activity are beneficial, no matter how short or infrequent, but we also understand that a form of indoor exercise may be warranted for those living in heavily polluted environments.

Another presentation will discuss athletic training in hot and humid versus cold and dry conditions. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but ultimately, whichever condition is chosen, there must be gradual acclimatisation. Also, the optimum condition for one sport might be very different to that for another sport, for example, sprinting compared with marathon running. The key issue is to identify which condition is most suitable for each individual and for each sport.

Finally, the last session will cover how we can build neighbourhoods to promote healthier living. We want to encourage physical activity, and this should be considered by locating amenities within walking distance of residential areas. Other considerations include creating protected, safe cycle paths and providing well-insulated buildings that are environmentally friendly.  Many of our towns and cities were built over 50 years ago, but for those designing new areas, building exercise into the plans will be associated with benefits for the community in years to come.”