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Environmental Public Health Tracking Network

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and a major cause of disability. About one of every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease. We have long known that things like lack of exercise and poor diet can increase the risk of heart disease. We are discovering that how good or bad the air we breathe is affects heart heath also.

Additional Topics on the Tracking Network:

  • Asthma
  • Birth Defects
  • Cancer
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Childhood Lead Poisoning
  • Climate Change
  • Community Design
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Heart Attacks
  • Homes
  • Reproductive and Birth Outcomes
  • Population Characteristics
  • Outdoor Air
  • Water

Heart Health and Air Pollution

People who breathe very small bits of air pollution (fine particle pollution) either short term or long term have a greater risk of heart disease than people who do not breathe this kind of air pollution. Fine particle pollution, also known as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), is made by burning fossil fuels. It is dangerous because it is made up of tiny particles that are small enough to be inhaled deeply into your lungs, where they can affect the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Look for data about your area

The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (Tracking Network) is helping us understand how the environment and heart health in America are connected. The Tracking Network is a tool that can help us estimate how solving one problem can help solve the other. For example, according to studies and estimates available on the Tracking Network, reducing fine particle pollution by 10% could prevent more than 13,000 deaths every year across the nation.

The Tracking Network makes it easy to see information and recognize factors about certain community qualities that may cause a higher risk of heart problems related to air pollution. These factors include issues like a high rate of poverty, more people without insurance, higher exposure to auto exhaust due to more people living in the community, and more. These risk factors are associated with more heart and lung problems, hospital visits, and deaths in areas with high amounts of air pollution.

Reduce your risk

This information can be used to help public health officials give these communities the help they most need, such as policies that keep the air clean. In addition, there are six easy tips you can use to help protect your heart from the effects of air pollution:

  • Know what your risk for cardiovascular disease is and how sensitive you are to air pollution.
  • Know when air pollution may be high in your area and reduce your exposure. Use the Air Quality Index to get accurate information.
  • Plan activities when and where pollution levels are lower.
  • Listen to your body.
  • See your health care provider when you need to.
  • Keep your medication with you.

Visit CDC's Tracking Network to learn more about air pollution and heart disease.

More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

  • Page last reviewed: February 6, 2012 (archived document)
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs