Wearing a facemask during exercise to limit exposure to outdoor air pollution reduces symptoms and is associated with objective improvements in myocardial ischemia, blood pressure and heart rate variability in people with coronary heart disease (CHD), according to new data presented at the World Congress of Cardiology (WCC) Scientific Sessions in Beijing, China today.

Results from an open-label randomized, crossover trial conducted in 98 CHD patients in Beijing demonstrated that the facemask intervention reduced general symptoms, perceived effort of work and perception of pollution for all study participants. Moreover, when participants wore a facemask mean arterial blood pressure was lower and heart rate variability was increased during the exercise period, while maximal ST segment depression was reduced throughout the 24-hour study period.

"Particulate air pollution is a major public health concern and is associated with cardiovascular disease," said Jeremy Langrish, Clinical Research Fellow, Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh. "In this study we investigated the effects of reducing exposure to particulate air pollution in patients with CHD. We found that wearing a simple but highly efficient facemask can improve cardiovascular health. Reducing exposure to particulate air pollution may prevent cardiovascular events in patients with heart disease living in industrialized or urban environments."

This British Heart Foundation supported clinical trial involved 98 CHD patients from the Cardiovascular Institute & Fuwai Hospital (Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences) who were asked to walk on a pre-defined city centre route in central Beijing for two-hours. Personal exposure to air pollution and exercise was assessed continuously using portable monitors and GPS tracking respectively, whilst continuous 12-lead ECGs were recorded using a Holter Monitor and symptoms were assessed using a simple questionnaire.

World Heart Federation

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