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Polluted Air Linked to Increased Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

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The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released a report stating that there is strong evidence showing that air pollution causes strokes and heart attacks. The group cautions people to reduce their exposure to air pollution, specifically the fine particulate matter which can cause the most harm. This is especially true for at-risk groups. If you're looking to reduce such exposure, the most effective thing to do is to get a HEPA indoor air purifier.

AHA Review of Research

The AHA's new report reviewed six years’ worth of medical research. Researchers found strong evidence that air pollution can actually clog arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes. As lead author Dr. Robert Brook of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor noted, "Particulate matter appears to directly increase risk by triggering events in susceptible individuals within hours to days of an increased level of exposure, even among those who otherwise may have been healthy for years." His team also found a "small yet consistent" link between short-term exposure to air pollution and premature death.

Harvard Blood Clot Research

New research from the Harvard School of Public Health also shows that fine particulate air pollution may cause blood clots in your legs. This is similar to the experience of people with "economy class syndrome" – the blood clots that can come with frequent flights where you sit immobile in an airplane for long hours. Researchers studied 870 people who had developed deep vein thrombosis, blood clots in the legs, between 1995 and 2005. They then compared these people with 1210 others from the same area, but who did not develop deep vein thrombosis. They found something startling: people's risk of deep vein thrombosis increased 70% for every 10 microgram per square meter increase of particulate matter in the previous year. The researchers also found that for those who had been exposed to more particulate matter, their blood actually clotted more quickly in lab tests.

Particulate Matter Explained

Particulate matter is a component of what we think of as air pollution. It's composed of extremely small particles that stay suspended in the air. These particles are so small, in fact, that they can actually enter your bloodstream directly from the lungs. Particulate matter is a byproduct of machinery that burns fossil fuels – cars, power plants, and so on. In the course of burning fossil fuels, particles of carbons, nitrates, and metals are released into the air where they can be breathed in by people. These particles have been linked to many health problems and it's understandable that breathing them in would cause harm, possibly by causing widespread inflammation. Researchers initially thought lung diseases would be the most problematic effect of air pollution, but the entry of particulates into the bloodstream means that cardiovascular issues like heart attack and stroke are of great concern. Research shows that particulates actually increase the rate at which blood coagulates, meaning your blood clots faster. That leads to the kind of blood clots consistent with deep vein thrombosis, heart attack, and stroke. According to the AHA, the body's response to particulates "can increase blood clotting and thrombosis, impair vascular function and blood flow, elevate blood pressure, and disrupt proper cardiac electrical activity which may ultimately provoke heart attacks, strokes, or even death."

AHA Recommendations

The AHA recommends that the elderly and other high-risk groups "limit their exposure as much as possible." High-risk people include those with a history of heart attack or stroke, people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or any kind of heart disease. Everyone in these categories needs to be vigilant about reducing their exposure to smog. First, they must pay attention to air pollution and air quality issues. The AHA recommends staying indoors on particularly smoggy days and reducing the amount of time in traffic given that your daily drive is where you're most exposed to particulate matter. And high-risk people still need to control those factors they can change, things like smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, and managing diabetes.

HEPA Air Purifiers for Improved Indoor Air Quality

If you want to improve your indoor air quality and reduce exposure to fine particulates, it’s essential that you get a professional-grade HEPA air purifier. HEPA filters remove 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 microns and above and they must adhere to strict standards in order to attain the HEPA rating. Staying inside on smoggy days and reducing time in traffic is a start, but it's also true that many people live in proximity to street traffic. Given the nature of particulate matter, it can also get inside one's home, where the Environmental Protection Agency states that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air. If you're concerned about particulate matter, or you simply want the peace of mind of breathing clean air, look into getting yourself a HEPA air purifier. You'll be glad you did.


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