When you think of environmental issues, your mind most likely focuses on problems like climate change and air pollution that harm the planet.
But have you stopped to consider how these factors harm you?
I’m not talking about plastics and toxins that leach into your food that may or not lead to cancer one day. I’m talking about the air you breath and the fact that air pollution is now the most significant environmental risk for early death — responsible for serious long-term health effects like heart disease.
Air pollution has even been linked to more severe cases of COVID-19
You see, air pollution doesn’t just wreak havoc on the planet, but on your health, too. In fact, the damage it can do to your heart has prompted the medical community to declare it a factor they must address for the sake of their patients.
Here’s what you should know — and what you can do to protect yourself…
Air pollution, COVID-19 and Cardiovascular Disease
When we take a breath, our first line of defense is hair-like structures known as cilia, which line our respiratory tract keeping the airways clear of dirt and mucus. Air pollution damages the cilia and causes cellular damage, including inflammation throughout the body, making it more vulnerable to cancer, diabetes, asthma, stroke — and heart disease.
All of these conditions are known to raise risks for a harsher outcome with COVID-19. And the pollution? Well, a study out of Harvard has concluded that someone living in an area of high-particulate pollution is 8 percent more likely to die from COVID-19 than others living in an area with less pollution.
But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution was an issue of growing concern.
In 2019, an estimated 6.7 million deaths were attributed to household or outdoor air pollution and half of these were due to cardiovascular disease.
This dangerous “triple threat” of air pollution, COVID-19, and cardiovascular disease has four leading cardiovascular organizations — the World Heart Federation (WHF), the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) — making a call to action encouraging the medical community and health authorities to speak up and act to mitigate the impact of air pollution on the health of the human population.
This statement is powerful because it causes much needed structural and community actions to reduce air pollutants and harmful exposure. But it also highlights the critical role for healthcare providers which include:
- Providing patients with information about personal measures to reduce exposure such as room filtration and air purification systems.
- Integrating air pollution into disease management approaches, for example, as air quality indices, would be helpful for patients diagnosed with asthma.
- Supporting ministries of environment, energy, and transportation in their efforts.
- Raising awareness of the cardiovascular benefits of clean air (online forums, pamphlets, and conversations with all new and existing patients).
- Collaborating with senior decision-makers locally, regionally, and nationally to make air pollution-related heart disease a priority.
- Advocating for air pollution mitigation as a health measurement, additional research studies on air quality and impact on CVD, and interventions to reduce air pollution and effect on NCD’s.
How can you start protecting yourself right now?
Air pollution is a problem that’s not going to go away as soon as we’d like it to — even with the clout of these powerful medical organizations bringing to light the dire consequences for our heart health.
That doesn’t mean you should sit idly by while it makes you sick…
The threat of a pollution-triggered heart attack is something my colleague Jedha Dening has written about before. You can read her research that explains how vitamin B supplements can play a critical factor in almost completely reversing the harmful pollution damage caused to your immune and cardiovascular systems.
Also, vitamin D is very important for heart health. Not only does vitamin D3 increase the level of nitric oxide in your blood to regulate blood flow and lower your blood pressure, but it also lowers the levels of oxidative stress in your cardiovascular system. Exposure to a wide range of air pollutants gives rise to oxidative stress.
It’s important to know that indoor pollution is just as big a threat as outside pollution. Our homes are full of volatile chemical compounds that leak into the air from furniture, clothes, flooring and other building materials. For tips on improving your home’s air quality to diminish your exposure to air pollution, see our suggestions here.
Editor’s note: Have you heard of chelation therapy? Originally approved to remove toxins, its health uses now run the gamut from heart health to soothing varicose veins. You can learn all you need to know in the quintessential guide, Chelation: Natural Miracle For Protecting Your Heart and Enhancing Your Health. Click here for a preview!
Why air pollution is linked to severe cases of COVID-19 — Stanford Medicine blog