How Does Air Pollution Harm Your Heart

By Dr. Abdussamad Nalakath

03 Jan, 2018


While breathing polluted air, you might just as well think that it could affect your lungs. But air pollution can have severe effects on your hearts and blood vessels as well.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates,  in 2012, about 72 per cent of premature deaths related to outdoor air pollution were due to Ischemic Heart Disease and stroke.

Polluted air is made up of tiny particles of dust, dirt, soot, smoke etc.  Sometimes, these particles are large or dark enough to be visible to the naked eye; for example, you can spot smoke in the air. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

Studies in the past has associated air pollution with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias, heart failure  and premature death in people with heart or lung diseases, by triggering or worsening the conditions.

However, how particles inhaled into the lungs, could affect blood vessels and the heart had always remained a mystery till the latest findings published by researcher from University of Edinburgh in the UK and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands.

The findings of the study suggest that the extremely small particles of pollution (nanoparticles) have the potential to escape the lungs' protective filter system and end up in the bloodstream. These minute particles have an affinity for accumulating in the cardiovascular system that are damaged or inflamed and possibly increase the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.  

How to protect your heart !
You can protect your heart by avoiding situations where you are exposed to a high level of air pollution. Air Pollution can come from factories, power generators or exhaust from cars, buses, airplanes or even cooking from burning coal and wood.  

Also, it’s worth remembering that, indoor spaces can be polluted, too. One of the most common indoor sources is smoking — a danger to the person lighting up and to those around.

Air pollution is highest during the heat of the day, so plan your outdoor activities for early morning or late evening. Avoid walking or biking on busy streets.

Aerobic physical activity is very good for your heart and for most people the benefits of exercising outdoors outweigh the risks associated with air pollution--avoiding busy roads and industrial areas though.  When you have a heart problem or chronic lung disease and when the air quality is poor, avoid exercising outdoors. Also, while you are indoors, make sure you’re active.

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