Kolkata, India: A paper published in a top medical journal says governments and politicians around the world must ensure cities and metropolitans has enough heart-healthy infrastructures like cycling lanes, walking pavements, and clean air quality to tackle the threats of emerging cardiac diseases.
The paper, published in the European Heart Journal, of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) says that by 2050, three out of every four people will live in cities, where up to 80% of energy is consumed and 70% of greenhouse gases are released.
Because these individuals have few options for protecting themselves against contaminants (pollution, lack of heart-healthy infrastructure) that threaten ailing heart conditions, governments and policymakers must shoulder this burden,” Professor Thomas Münzel of the University Medical Centre Mainz, Germany, claimed.
The WHO regional office for Europe has campaigned for urban planning that encourages cycling and walking while also improving air quality, and the plan, which has the approval of the ESC, is a step toward the WHO’s goal of a 25% reduction in premature death from cardiovascular disease by 2025. (compared to 2010).
Cardiovascular illnesses are the main cause of death in Europe, accounting for 47 percent of all deaths in women and 39 percent of all deaths in men.
The paper notes, while cities have been a source of innovation and riches, they have also been a source of pollution and sickness.
The recommendations of the paper summarise the evidence supporting links between poor air quality, noise, temperature, and outdoor light exposure, and cardiovascular disease.
City planning is widely recognized as a viable strategy for addressing negative health effects.
Hotspot of causes bane to heart
Global cities, albeit are the center of innovation and tech, are also hotspots of causes that invite ailing heart conditions. From sound to air pollution, till lack of proper walking and cycling lanes in cities, several factors contribute to this downside of the metros.
In Europe, air pollution causes over 800,000 fatal illnesses each year, with heart attacks and strokes accounting for over half of them.
Transportation emissions are the leading cause of air pollution in cities all around the world. Similarly, vehicle traffic is the most common source of noise, which increases the risk of ischemic heart disease.
Long-term exposure to transportation noise is thought to be responsible for 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease in the EU each year.
Hospitalization and death from coronary heart disease have been linked to nocturnal light pollution. Meanwhile, the heat of the sun is absorbed and re-emitted by concrete urban areas, resulting in rising temperatures.
These heat island effects have been linked to deaths during heat waves, which can be minimized by planting trees.
The study points out that environmental stressors like the ones stated above clutter together to deliver the death blow, and policies must be robust enough to tackle the same.
“Transitioning to cities that promote local living and active and sustainable mobility is increasingly recognized as providing co-benefits for health and the environment by creating more sustainable and liveable cities,” states the paper.
Car-free zones and compact cities are examples of designs that reduce travel distances. By reducing air pollution, noise, and heat island effects while promoting physical activity, limiting auto use, and promoting public and active transportation (walking and cycling) will improve heart health.
The study authors call for “a radical rethink about how we organize the way we live in the future in order to protect human and planetary health”.
While individuals can avoid polluted regions and use earplugs, true change requires political commitment, Professor Thomas Münzel says.
In the coming years, metropolitan regions are predicted to house an ever-increasing portion of the global population. Now is the time to create cities that support health rather than harm it.