It’s a known fact that heart attacks are linked to hypertension, diabetes and smoking. Now urban India can add one more cause of concern to heart health disease, air pollution. It affects the expansion and contraction of the blood vessel as a result affecting blood pressure. According to French researchers from the Paris Cardiovascular Research Center, the high levels of main pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and soot particles adversely affect the heart.
What is more unnerving is the fact that if each of the main pollutants is increased by 10 micrograms per cubic metre, you won’t know the difference in the air you are inhaling. But this heavily polluted air increases your chances of having a heart attack by 1-3 percent.
While environmental studies is the easiest subject in school, it’s not that easy to follow once you step out into the real world. With the industrial boom and manifold increase of vehicles on our already congested roads, Indians have every reason to clean up the air. If hay fever and flu is spreading like hungry locusts and the thinning of the ozone layer is our cue, it's time to pick up a bicycle.
According to cardiologist Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, “Particulate matter absorbs ultraviolet B waves, responsible for vitamin D. This deficiency leads to heart diseases. Exposure to high pollution level also increases chances of thrombosis (blood clot) and blockages in the heart.”
There are four ways pollutants can increase your chances of cardiovascular diseases.
- If your blood pressure increases, your heart rate increases and constricts blood vessels.
- The number of blood clots increases as the stickiness of the blood increases.
- It results in the thickening of the arterial wall.
- Lead is an agent that triggers high blood pressure.
However, there is something - albeit very little - that you can do about combating air pollution's effects on your heart health. Dr. Aggarwal explains, “One can practice simple exercises and take some precautionary measures to avoid diseases caused by air pollution.”
- Use air conditioners to filter the air during times of peak symptoms.
- Close your windows at home as well as when you're in the car.
- Showering before going to bed washes allergens from your hair and skin which helps reduce contamination of the bedding.
- Use saline sprays and rinses to wash off the allergens from the nasal lining after you have been outdoors.
- Practice Pranayama and Jalneti to cleanse your cardiorespiratory system.
Dr. KK Aggarwal, Padmashri and Dr. B C Roy National Awardee, is a consultant for Medicine and Cardiology at Moolchand Heart Hospital, New Delhi.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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