Nicole Probst-Hensch

Basel, Switzerland

Nicole Probst-Hensch is Professor and Head of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland. After completing postdoctoral studies at the University of California and University of Southern California, USA, Dr. Probst-Hensch was Head, Zürich Cancer Registry and Department of Molecular Epidemiology, University of Zürich (2002-2008) and in 2008 was appointed Professor, School of Medicine, University of Zürich. From 2008 to 2009 she was Director, National Institute of Cancer Epidemiology and Registration, University of Zürich & Head, Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, University of Zürich, Switzerland, before her current appointment. Among other memberships and consultancies, Professor Probst-Hensch is a Fellow of the Swiss School of Public Health, and a Founding Member of the Public Health Genomics Task Force Switzerland. Her associations include the American Association for Cancer Research; the Society for Epidemiologic Research; and the European Respiratory Society. She is a member of the editorial board of Public Health Genomics and Environmental Health Perspectives.


Monday 01 June 09:30

What is the environment doing to cardiovascular health?

Much of the focus in cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention has been on the major established risk factors. It is increasingly recognised, however, that environmental factors pose additional risks with health implications. For example, in Europe, current estimates suggest that environmental factors are responsible for up to 20% of the disease burden, with CVD the largest component of this burden.

Air and noise pollution are environmental health risks with a wide-ranging impact on CVD. A wealth of epidemiologic studies has linked exposure to air pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide to subclinical CVD and clinical cardiovascular outcomes, with the greatest impact in individuals already at risk. While the underlying mechanisms require further elucidation, pathways implicated include inflammation, oxidative stress, and vascular (endothelial) dysfunction, which can facilitate the development of hypertension, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

Public policies are essential to protect health and, ultimately, to reduce the burden of CVD. Good evidence supports better urban and transport planning to promote physical activity and reduce levels of air and noise pollution. Moreover, a switch to clean, renewable energy sources has been estimated to more than halve the attributable CVD mortality rate in Europe by over 50%.

Key references

Meier-Girard D, Delgado-Eckert E, Schaffner E, Schindler C, Künzli N, Adam M, Pichot V, Kronenberg F, Imboden M, Frey U, Probst-Hensch N. Association of long-term exposure to traffic-related PM10 with heart rate variability and heart rate dynamics in healthy subjects. Environ Int 2019;125:107-16.

Vienneau D, Héritier H, Foraster M, Eze IC, Schaffner E, Thiesse L, Rudzik F, Habermacher M, Köpfli M, Pieren R, Brink M, Cajochen C, Wunderli JM, Probst-Hensch N, Röösli M; SNC study group. Façades, floors and maps – Influence of exposure measurement error on the association between transportation noise and myocardial infarction. Environ Int 2019;123:399-406.

Thiesse L, Rudzik F, Spiegel K, Leproult R, Pieren R, Wunderli JM, Foraster M, Héritier H, Eze IC, Meyer M, Vienneau D, Brink M, Probst-Hensch N, Röösli M, Cajochen C. Adverse impact of nocturnal transportation noise on glucose regulation in healthy young adults: Effect of different noise scenarios. Environ Int 2018;121(Pt 1):1011-23.