Researchers have found that individuals can improve their cardiovascular health by using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers in their homes. Heart disease is a common danger, one of the leading health risks people face. Doctors have traditionally suggested exercise and weight loss to combat heart disease. This new research provides evidence that using HEPA air purifiers may also help reduce the risks of developing heart problems.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. Pollution researchers are increasingly linking fine particulate air pollution to heart damage. These fine particulates come from airborne chemical reactions among exhaust and fumes produced by cars and smokestacks. The particles are so small that they enter the lungs and then get absorbed into the bloodstream. They clog and damage the circulatory system, leading to heart disease. One early warning sign of serious, even fatal, cardiovascular problems is the malfunctioning of the inner lining of small blood vessels. To combat heart problems, doctors typically recommend exercising, losing weight, and quitting smoking. Yet a Danish study now indicates that using a portable HEPA air purifier may also be a method to combat heart disease.
The Danish study, “Indoor Particles Affect Vascular Function in the Aged,” was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Researchers sought to determine how indoor air particles affected the microvascular system. Secondarily, they also looked at the particles’ effects on oxidative stress and inflammation. Researchers studied 21 couples between the ages of 60 and 75. All were non-smokers in good health and all lived in proximity to heavily-traveled roads.
During the randomized, double-blind crossover trial, researchers observed the couples for two 48-hour periods. In one 48-hour period, air was purified by HEPA air purifiers. In the other, HEPA air purifiers were not used. Thus, the couple's served as their own controls. Researchers recorded the characteristics of the indoor air quality – particles’ size distribution and concentration, among others. They tested subjects’ microvascular function with finger sensors. Inflammation, oxidative stress, and hemostasis were measured with blood and urine samples.
The scientists found that the HEPA air purifiers removed approximately 60% of the coarse, fine, and ultrafine indoor air particles. The couples’ microvascular systems were significantly improved, by an average of 8.1% after just two days. They found that specific elements were more harmful than others. Microvascular function was notably decreased by exposure to certain elements – lead, iron, copper, potassium, zinc, and arsenic. Copper and iron are typically released from brake dust. Researchers also found that the size of particles was more important than their concentration. They found no change in oxidative stress or inflammation, which indicated that the mechanism by which HEPA air purifiers improve microvascular function remains unknown.
Professor Steffen Loft at the Institute of Public Health, Copenhagen, noted, “This suggests that indoor air filtration represents a feasible means of reducing cardiovascular risk.” Though the researchers anticipated that HEPA air purifiers would improve microvascular function, Loft stated “we were heartened and surprised by the extent it did, considering the modest levels of particles in the indoor air of the homes of the elderly.” He believes that the improvement is due to improved functioning by the inner lining of small blood vessels, like those that provide blood to the heart.
HEPA Air Filters
Since the researchers noted the importance of the size of particles – that their very small diameters allow them to be 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. The American Lung Association asserts that HEPA filters are the 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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