Are ambient ultrafine, accumulation mode, and fine particles associated with adverse cardiac responses in patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation?

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Aug;120(8):1162-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104262. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


Background: Mechanisms underlying previously reported air pollution and cardiovascular (CV) morbidity associations remain poorly understood.

Objectives: We examined associations between markers of pathways thought to underlie these air pollution and CV associations and ambient particle concentrations in postinfarction patients.

Methods: We studied 76 patients, from June 2006 to November 2009, who participated in a 10-week cardiac rehabilitation program following a recent (within 3 months) myocardial infarction or unstable angina. Ambient ultrafine particle (UFP; 10-100 nm), accumulation mode particle (AMP; 100-500 nm), and fine particle concentrations (PM2.5; ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter) were monitored continuously. Continuous Holter electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings were made before and during supervised, graded, twice weekly, exercise sessions. A venous blood sample was collected and blood pressure was measured before sessions.

Results: Using mixed effects models, we observed adverse changes in rMSSD [square root of the mean of the sum of the squared differences between adjacent normal-to-normal (NN) intervals], SDNN (standard deviation of all NN beat intervals), TpTe (time from peak to end of T-wave), heart rate turbulence, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, C-reactive protein, and fibrinogen associated with interquartile range increases in UFP, AMP, and PM2.5 at 1 or more lag times within the previous 5 days. Exposures were not associated with MeanNN, heart-rate-corrected QT interval duration (QTc), deceleration capacity, and white blood cell count was not associated with UFP, AMP, and PM2.5 at any lag time.

Conclusions: In cardiac rehabilitation patients, particles were associated with subclinical decreases in parasympathetic modulation, prolongation of late repolarization duration, increased blood pressure, and systemic inflammation. It is possible that such changes could increase the risk of CV events in this susceptible population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particle Size*