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10 Years Later Healing Continues for Our Nation and Hearts


Heart Health For World Trade Center First RespondersThis weekend and the following days will bring a tidal surge of commentary surrounding the ten-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. The effect of this horrific event has surely become the touchstone of our society, filtering into each crevasse of every day American life.

For a certain population, however, the lingering effects of Sept. 11 go beyond the emotional and psychological, having manifested themselves in a very physical way. Last March, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (a partner of LI Heart) released studies demonstrating an extremely high rate of heart problems in World Trade Center first responders.

More than 1,200 police officers took part in an 18-month-long program monitoring any potential heart conditions. It has been previously established that lung damage caused by prolonged smoking can lead to heart disease or failure, but physicians were unsure of how exposure to extreme dust and grit in an isolated event would impact cardiac health.

Researchers found that more than 60 percent of World Trade Center first responders had less-than-normal diastolic heart function, meaning the heart’s lower chambers were unable to fully relax. This portion of the study group represented a more than eight-fold increase from the general population where only 7 percent of people suffer from diastolic dysfunction.

Having diastolic dysfunction can mean that blood is backing up into the lungs, reducing lung capacity over time. While the exact cause of this dysfunction was not determined in the study, researchers suggested that such an intense exposure to inhaled debris could drastically impact heart abnormalities.

Even people who weren’t on the scene at Ground Zero were at a higher risk for heart attacks following that day. Studies at several New York hospitals found that the incidence of heart attacks increased by anywhere from 35-100% in the month after Sept. 11. While many of these heart attack victims were not physically affected by the attacks, the psychological effects of the aftermath and ongoing television reports caused their symptoms to rapidly develop.

Just like prolonged stress from job tension or financial worries can wear down your overall health, a sudden, intense event can compound any underlying conditions and cause your body to go into cardiac arrest.

The most important takeaway from these findings is that people need to recognize and acknowledge the real impact emotional events can have on them. Whether you have lived through a devastating tragedy or you are dealing with the everyday stresses of life, taking care of yourself and your heart should be a top priority.

If you are a 9/11 survivor with questions about your heart health or if you just want to learn more about how your lifestyle is affecting your well-being, contact one of our local cardiologists today.

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