We’ve written previously about the impact pollution and air quality can have on health. Now we turn to air pollution and heart health.
This year, China has been undergoing what’s been dubbed the “airpocalypse” as pollution levels reach deadly highs. Many parts of the United States also have similar crises on a smaller scale, not just in big cities. Areas with lots of factories or vehicles can have higher concentrations of ozone, which lead to increased asthma attacks, hospital admissions, and even death, especially in older adults and during the warmer seasons. Pollution and ozone can also travel hundreds of miles and accumulate in regions far away from factories or urban cities.
In that ozone article, we mentioned that scientists are still uncertain what the long-term effects of pollution and ozone are and how exactly they affect health. But a new study out this week has brought us one step closer to understanding why pollution has such a detrimental effect.
Researchers at the University of Michigan followed over 5,000 men and women from six large cities for about two and half years. By using ultrasounds, they determined how thickened their arteries were and matched this data up with air pollution data for those days.
Turns out, the more air pollution, the greater the arterial thickening.
This evidence shows the clear association between air pollution and heart health, as well as why heart attacks increase when air quality is low.
Pollution may be one of the biggest overlooked public health issues today. While everyone knows the problems associated with smoking, few people realize that breathing in pollution from factories is essentially the same. The air crisis in China has been compared to constantly living in an airport smoking lounge.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 7 million people die each year from pollution. That’s three times more than malaria and AIDS combined!
While there are still many who may deny the importance of curbing emissions and reducing pollution to stop global warming, hopefully this new study will give them clear incentive to reduce pollution for the sake of public health.
To protect your own health, you can get up-to-date information on air quality in areas across the United States through the EPA website AirNow. In general, when ozone levels are high, people with asthma (especially children and the elderly) should reduce the amount of time they spend outdoors and cancel vigorous outdoor activities.