Study: Smoke from wildfires could lead to increased risk for heart, stroke issues

OKLAHOMA CITY – Health experts are warning Oklahomans to be cautious as wildfires rage in western portions of the state.

According to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, smoke from wildfires has been known to send people to the hospital with heart issues and stroke-related complaints.

Studies have shown that wildfire smoke exacerbates respiratory conditions.

Researchers with the Environmental Protection Agency, University of California San Francisco and California Department of Public Health reviewed more than 1 million emergency room visits during intense wildfires.

They found that smoke exposure was associated with increased rates of emergency room visits, not just for breathing trouble but also for ischemic heart disease, irregular heart rhythm, heart failure, pulmonary embolism and stroke.

The greatest increased risk was noted within a day of dense wildfire smoke. During those times, researcher found that ER visits among adults 65-years-old and older increased 42 percent for heart attacks and 22 percent for ischemic heart disease.

“The findings have public health and clinical implications,” said Wayne E. Cascio, M.D., study author and acting director for the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in the EPA’s Research and Development Office. “I think it will have a significant impact on how clinicians and public health officials view future wildfire events and the smoke that’s generated from them.”

Officials say wildfire smoke contains pollutants like ozone, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.