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The Relationship Between Ambient Air Pollution and Heart Rate Variability Differs for Individuals with Heart and Pulmonary Disease

By Amanda Wheeler, Antonella Zanobetti, Diane R. Gold, Joel David Schwartz, Peter Howard Stone and Helen H. Suh MacIntosh


Associations between concentrations of ambient fine particles [particulate matter < 2.5 μm aerodynamic diameter (PM\(_{2.5}\))] and heart rate variability (HRV) have differed by study population. We examined the effects of ambient pollution on HRV for 18 individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 12 individuals with recent myocardial infarction (MI) living in Atlanta, Georgia. HRV, baseline pulmonary function, and medication data were collected for each participant on 7 days in fall 1999 and/or spring 2000. Hourly ambient pollution concentrations were obtained from monitoring sites in Atlanta. The association between ambient pollution and HRV was examined using linear mixed-effect models. Ambient pollution had opposing effects on HRV in our COPD and MI participants, resulting in no significant effect of ambient pollution on HRV in the entire population for 1-, 4-, or 24-hr moving averages. For individuals with COPD, interquartile range (IQR) increases in 4-hr ambient PM\(_{2.5}\) (11.65 μg/m\(^3\)) and nitrogen dioxide (11.97 ppb) were associated with 8.3% [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.7–15.3%] and 7.7% (95% CI, 0.1–15.9%) increase in the SD of normal R-R intervals (SDNN), respectively. For individuals with MI, IQR increases in 4-hr PM\(_{2.5}\) (8.54 μg/m\(^3\)) and NO2 (9.25 ppb) were associated with a nonsignificant 2.9% (95% CI, –7.8 to 2.3) and significant 12.1 (95% CI, –19.5 to –4.0) decrease in SDNN. Beta-blocker and bronchodilator intake and baseline forced expiratory volume in 1 sec modified the PM–SDNN association significantly, with effects consistent with those by disease group. Results indicate heterogeneity in the autonomic response to air pollution due to differences in baseline health, with significant associations for ambient NO2 suggesting an important role for traffic-related pollution

Topics: ambient pollution, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fine particulate matter, heart rate variability, myocardial infarctions, nitrogen dioxide
Publisher: 'Environmental Health Perspectives'
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1289/ehp.8337
OAI identifier:

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