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Because so many people in my family have had heart and blood pressure problems, I do everything I can to keep my blood pressure in the normal range and hypertension at bay.
From exercising regularly and eating right to taking heart-healthy supplements, if it can help, I do it.
So I really thought I was taking every precaution possible.
Until I read this line from the conclusion of a study out of the University of Washington, “Breathing highway air increases blood pressure.”
That was not new news to me — but what was is that they weren’t just talking about long-term exposure.
Here are the details you need to know before your next car ride…
It’s like eating a high-sodium diet
Long-term exposure to air pollution, like that caused by traffic, has been linked to numerous dangerous health conditions — from heart disease and asthma to lung cancer.
This led researchers to wonder what that same pollution could be doing to our bodies in the short term.
So, they set up an initial experiment in the lab, which proved that breathing diesel exhaust fumes went hand-in-hand with higher blood pressure.
Then they took their theory to the streets… and recruited healthy participants to drive through rush-hour Seattle traffic while monitoring their blood pressure.
On two of the drives, unfiltered road air was allowed to enter the car, mirroring how many of us drive.
But on the third trip, the car was equipped with high-quality HEPA filters that blocked out 86 percent of particulate pollution.
Sure enough, the researchers discovered that breathing unfiltered air while driving resulted in net blood pressure increases of more than 4.50 mm Hg when compared to driving and breathing air that was being filtered.
Shockingly, the researchers say an increase of that amount is the equivalent of eating a high-sodium diet!
Unfortunately, the bad news keeps coming…
Not only did the rise in blood pressure happen rapidly after exposure to road pollution, but the participant’s blood pressure remained high for at least 24 hours, if not longer.
This means that if you drive daily, your blood pressure may never have time to come down to normal. That’s a scary thought.
Better air quality for better blood pressure
The good news is that now that you know about the danger, there are things you can do to reduce your air pollution exposure when you drive and keep your blood pressure healthy.
- Reduce time in heavy traffic – The heavier the traffic you drive in, the more pollutants you are exposed to. So if you have any flexibility, choose less crowded routes and travel at less congested times.
- Choose re-circulated air – When driving in traffic, be sure to keep your windows closed and use re-circulated air to minimize pollution exposure.
- Keep your car clean – Cleaning the inside of the car can reduce the amount of particulates and contaminants on surfaces. Simply use a clean, soft cloth to wipe your dash, console and panels and vacuum upholstery and mats.
- Repair cracked seals – Cracks in the weather-stripping of the doors and windows and leaks in seals can allow more pollutants to wind their way through your car’s interior air. Check them regularly and have any problems repaired promptly.
- Replace your cabin air filter – Most cars have a cabin air filter that helps improve the quality of the air you breathe. Check your owner’s manual to find out how often you should change this filter.
For additional help, I reach for nutrients with a strong background for supporting normal blood pressure. Those include:
- Grape Seed Extract – The polyphenols in grape seed extract activate nitric oxide in the lining of blood vessels to relax your arteries promoting healthy blood flow.
- Vitamin K2 – The vitamin that supports arterial health, which in turn can support healthy blood pressure by promoting elastic and pliable arteries so everything flows better.
- Pterostilbene – A powerful antioxidant that helps block the creation of Angiotensin II – an enzyme that stiffens the walls of your blood vessels and triggers a hormone that increases the amounts of sodium and water retained by your body.
Safe driving — and keep those windows up!
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Breathing highway air increases blood pressure — ScienceDaily
Air Pollution in Your Car — American Lung Association