Harvard Heart Letter

Heart beat: Air pollution fails the heart, vitamins may help

Heart beat

Air pollution fails the heart; vitamins may help

Sitting in traffic puts a strain on the heart. Living near it is even worse. In a new study of people with heart failure, those whose homes were close to a major roadway were more likely to have died over a five-year period than those who lived away from traffic (Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2008).

In studies like this, it's hard to point the finger at any single culprit. Exhaust spewing from the tailpipes of cars, trucks, and buses almost certainly plays an important role. It carries particles small enough to evade the lung's filters and get drawn deep into the lungs. Breathing in these particles can worsen heart failure or trigger heart attacks.

Getting enough vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and the amino acid methionine may somehow counteract the impact of these tiny particles. In a study of more than 500 elderly men, adequate intake of these nutrients offset air pollution's harmful effects on heart rate variability, a measure of heart health (Circulation, April 8, 2008).

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