The Effect of Chronic Pollution on the Heart
Eating right, exercise, and a good diet all help the heart stay healthy, but all of that work can be negated by air pollution. Especially in modern cities today, air pollution is a real concern. There have been significant efforts in cleaning up smog, manufacturing pollution and air contaminants, but it can still be a problem for other reasons. Everything from wildfires to greenhouse gas effects contribute to air pollution that works against heart health.
How Air Pollution Became a Modern Risk
In the 1970s, Los Angeles was probably the poster child of modern smog. While air pollution due to manufacturing had long been known as a problem and a health risk (London was a great example in the 1950s), smog really became prevalent and tangible in 20 years later thanks to poor emission control from vehicles and commuting. Since that time, carmakers have had to institute significant controls on vehicle emissions. Today, vehicles run much cleaner, but smog is still a problem, especially on hot days when there is little in the way of wind or rain to clean the air.
Air Pollution & Heart Health
For heart health, pollution enters the body through the lungs. While the nose and lungs filter out quite a bit, microscopic contaminants can still get into the bloodstream with constant exposure. This is how smoke, for example, can trigger carbon monoxide poisoning with exposure. The contaminants either cause harmful effects to organs or, worse, they replace oxygen and starve the brain and organs connected to circulation. Pollution can also contribute to plaque build up in arteries, also directly impacting the heart with blockages. In fact, one of the worst places to exercise, breathing in more air than normal, would be in a location and on a day the air pollution is really bad. In extreme cases, fine microscopic-sized pollution material can even trigger a cardiac event.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
During any kind of high-pollution day, such as wind-blown smoke from a regional wildfire, or a hot summer stretch with little air change and high temperature trapping commuter smog, people would be smart to wear a mask when outdoors. It can do a tremendous job in cutting down many particles that otherwise make it into the lungs during such days.
While different people will react differently to pollution levels, those who are already sensitive to breathing concerns will find air pollution to be very troublesome. Dr. Ian Weisberg notes common symptoms can include disruption of a normal heart rate (palpitations), unexplained exhaustion as the body fights for oxygen, dizziness, inability to breathe normally and a tight feeling in the chest. Any of these symptoms should be considered serious, and a patient should seek a doctor’s help and evaluation quickly.