Heart disease is a common danger, one of the leading health risks people face these days. While we have always blamed our changing lifestyle leading to chronic disease development like heart disease, there’s another vital factor that is believed to aggravate the same.
Researches show fine particulate of air pollution thickens blood and hardens arteries, accelerating atherosclerosis — a disease in which plaque (calcium, fat, cholesterol and other substances) builds up in arteries, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching organs or body parts. This leads to the development of other diseases based on which arteries and body parts are affected, causing heart attacks, stroke or even death. These fine particulates come from airborne chemical reactions among exhaust and fumes produced by cars and smokestacks. The particles are so small that they easily enter the lungs and then get absorbed into the bloodstream. They clog and damage the circulatory system, leading to heart disease.
Health Effecting Pollutants
Ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) react with the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The primary source of VOCs and NOx is mobile sources, including cars, trucks, buses and construction equipment.At low levels, this may not cause any noticeable symptoms, but at higher levels, symptoms can include shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain. Ozone reaches its highest level during the afternoon and early evening hours. So people who exercise outdoors, especially in the evening may face this problem.
Particulate Matter is a complex mixture that may contain soot, smoke, metals, nitrates, sulphates, dust, water and tire rubber. It can be directly emitted, as in smoke from a fire or it can form in the atmosphere from reactions of gases such as nitrogen oxides. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles pose the greatest problems because they can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart.
Effects of exposure to ozone and particle pollution
• With higher levels of ozone, people report more respiratory symptoms, use more respiratory medications and make more emergency room visits
• Increases respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty in breathing
• Decreases lung function and aggravates asthma
• Causes heart attacks and arrhythmias in people with heart disease
• Fine particles aggravate heart and lung conditions, creating serious health risks — including death from heart and lung disease
What you can do
Be aware of your symptoms – Some people are more sensitive than others. If you feel respiratory symptoms when the air pollution levels rise, do not ignore them. Contact your doctor immediately. You may indicate a reaction to ozone, particle pollution, or other pollutants.
Avoid exposure – While outdoor exercise is good for health, you should consider limiting your outdoor exercise at times when air quality is poor, such as late afternoons and early evenings in the summer on high-ozone days. Consider exercisingearly in the morning or late evening hours or at indoor spaces.
Reschedule your activities – When particle pollution concentrations are expected to be high (during Diwali or foggy winters), take it easy. Particle pollution levels can be high inside as well as out, so cut back or reschedule strenuous activities. Changing your plans can help reduce the amount of pollutants that get in your lungs.You can help protect your health and your community’s health, by taking steps such as carpooling, vanpooling and using transit.
Improve indoor air quality – Since studies showed the importance of the size of the pollutants that easily get absorbed into the bloodstream and thus cause damage, HEPA filters are the obvious choice for anyone concerned about improving indoor air quality. HEPA air purifiers with HEPA filters will remove 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns from the air you breathe. Some even filter out particles smaller than that. HEPA filters are most efficient at removing airborne irritants. HEPA air filters can be an important tool for anyone concerned with living healthy and breathing clean air.
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