Air Quality Impacts Heart Health

When a teenager tossed a smoke bomb down a steep canyon in the middle of the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon, it did a lot more than smoke for a minute and burn out. The careless act ignited a wildfire that has burned 33,382 acres so far, torched homes, caused landslides, forced evacuations, and filled the air for miles with ash and smoke.

And that’s a problem. For older people, children, and people in poor  health, breathing smoke or polluted air can be hazardous. The smoke from this fire has become so bad, the air quality has become hazardous for everyone.

Check the air quality where you live

If you’re not in an area impacted by wildfires, maybe you live in a metropolitan area where pollution, smog, make the air unsafe to breathe.

Here’s a useful tool to check the air quality where you live created by the Environmental Protection Agency.

What happens when you breathe unhealthy air? Researchers in China recently conducted a study to find out.

They compared the results of two group of people exposed to the air in Shanghai, China. Both groups stayed indoors as much as possible during the 3-day study. One group spent most of the time inside with a high-efficiency air filter. The control group spent time inside, without an air filter.

Here’s what they found. People without an air filter inside showed signs of high blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress, all biomarkers that can contribute to heart disease.

Imagine how much worse the findings would be if the people spent a lot of time outdoors breathing polluted air!

If you want to keep your heart healthy, here are some things you can do:

  • Avoid going outdoors in areas where the air is polluted by smoke or hazardous particles from traffic, factories, power plants, or other sources.
  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day.
  • Don’t smoke. Quit if you do.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, or lose a few pounds if you’re overweight.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.

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