Air Pollution: The Heart Health FactorAir pollution damages our environment and all-around health. Risks linked to pollution include heart disease, kidney damage, liver damage, lung cancer, neurological damage and respiratory infections. A recent study at Tel Aviv University (TAU) firmly demonstrated that air pollution does much more than influence heart attacks and strokes; it actually increases the likelihood significantly over time. The good news, according to the EPA, is that air quality in the U.S. has improved dramatically since The Clean Air Act. The government has expanded the act numerous times since first implementing it, and there are additional regulations set to take effect soon. Via the act, federal law requires monitoring and regulation from all major sources of pollution, both stationary and mobile. Despite this, many U.S. cities and counties have pollution levels that still present a significant health risk over the long term. In the TAU study, researchers evaluated the long-term effect on people who had already experienced heart attacks. The study included more than one thousand patients who had experienced heart attacks in 1992 or 1993. The study then monitored those patients until 2011, 19 years in total. At each benchmark, the study also tested the air quality where the patients lived and in their homes. Not surprisingly, the study found that the risk was greater in areas with the highest pollution. What was surprising was how much greater the risk was. Compared to those in low-pollution areas, heart attack risk was up 43 percent and stroke risk was up 46 percent. In addition, the patients in the high-pollution areas were 35 percent more likely to have died before the study concluded, just nineteen years after the initial cardiac event. For those living in high-pollution areas, the paper based on the study presented options for minimizing risk overall and individually:
- Use public transportation or a carpool, whenever possible.
- Conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when not in use.
- Reduce the water heater thermostat to at least 120 degrees.
- Opt for a well-maintained, fuel-efficient vehicle.
- Avoid idling a vehicle more than 10 seconds, whenever possible.
- Limit exercise in high-pollution areas, including high-traffic areas.
- In high-pollution areas, wear a high-efficiency facemask.
- Check daily air quality and respond accordingly.
- Indoors, use a HEPA filter.