Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 03:47 pm

For World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation (WHF) aims to raise awareness about the link between poor air quality and heart disease…

Outdoor and household air pollution are an increasingly important risk factor for CVD.

According to recent research, air pollution is the cause of 19% of all CVD deaths, accounting for more than three million deaths each year.

Seven million people die prematurely every year from air pollution and of this number 1,4 million from strokes and over two million from heart disease.

CVD is the world’s biggest killer, causing over 17,5 million deaths each year.  In South Africa one in five deaths is due to CVD.

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Air pollution and cardiovascular disease (CVD)

The latest scientific evidence by Nature4 warns that exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter air pollution, originating from household wood, coal burning, industrial facilities, vehicle emissions and agricultural burning, is clearly linked to CVD mortality.

In addition, exposure to these particles increases the risk of developing hypertension and type-2 diabetes, which are major risk factors for CVD.

Poor air quality is also ranked as the fourth cause of Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) – one lost year of ‘healthy life’ – above tobacco, according to latest Global Burden of Disease study.

“Reducing exposure to air pollution has become a crucial challenge that the world needs to face if we are to continue advancing in our goal to reduce the impact of noncommunicable diseases, especially cardiovascular disease – the world’s biggest killer,” says Professor David Wood, WHF President. “On World Heart Day, we are raising awareness of poor outdoor and household air quality as an increasingly important risk factor, and bringing together all those involved in cardiovascular health from every country in the world in the fight to reduce CVD.”

Air pollution is linked to diabetes

In South Africa we have unique cardiovascular challenges as cardiac disease in pregnancy and rheumatic heart disease are common.

Professor Liesl  Zuhlke, President of the South African Heart Association and the Director of the Children’s Heart Disease Research unit  at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, says that congenital heart disease and the need to have a foetal scan at 20 weeks to check on unborn babies’ hearts following by a pulse-oximetry test once babies are born to exclude heart conditions.

Make your heart a promise

For World Heart Day (29 September), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), the South African Heart Association (SAHA) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) aligns its World Heart Day message with that of the World Heart Federation (WHF):

Make your heart promise. A promise as an individual to cook and eat more healthily, to do more exercise and encourage your children to be more active, to say no to smoking and help your loved ones to stop. A promise as a healthcare professional to continue working to reduce the impact of CVD and save more lives. A promise as a politician to implement a noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) action plan. A simple promise… for MY HEART, for YOUR HEART, for ALL OUR HEARTS.

For more information about World Heart Day, visit

Sources: GBD 2016 Risk Factors Collaborators. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet 390, 1345-1422 (2017), World Health Organisation, Nature Reviews Cardiology volume 15, pages 193-194 (2018) and


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.