Harvard Medical School researchers followed 48 patients, ages 43 to 75, who had been hospitalized for a heart attack, unstable angina (severe chest pain) or worsening coronary artery disease. Participants wore Holter monitors, which record heart activity as patients go about their normal routines. Researchers compared the results with pollution ratings.

Findings: Increased levels of pollutants caused by traffic were associated with a change in the heart's ability to conduct electrical signals. This may be a sign of inadequate blood flow to the heart. Effects were greatest within the first month after hospitalization.

Pollution particles from traffic seem to reduce blood flow through the heart arteries, increase inflammation and blood thickness and interfere with the electrical activity of the heart. Using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifier to filter out air pollutants, especially in the bedroom, is particularly important for those recovering from heart disease. It is also a good idea to stay away from exposure to pollution by avoiding driving in heavy traffic for a few weeks after discharge from the hospital.

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