How Pollution Ups Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease … And How to Protect Yourself

curtain-flowing_mediumAir pollution has long been recognized as linked to heart disease, but scientists have yet to pinpoint how pollutants inhaled into your lungs end up affecting your blood vessels and heart muscle. New research from the American Chemical Study may help answer that question. Rigorous experiments have shed light on the behavior of inhaled nanoparticles, and could help us understand why pollution has such a devastating impact on heart health.

Tracing the Route of Pollutants

Researchers from the American Chemical Study carried out a series of tests with healthy human participants … post-surgical human participants … and several mouse models to evaluate how inhaled gold nanoparticles moved through the body. They found high concentrations of nanoparticles in areas of the vascular system that were already damaged or inflamed. This suggests that inhaled pollutants can also travel from your lungs into your blood stream where they accumulate in the most susceptible areas of your cardiovascular system, spurring further deterioration.

“We have always suspected that nanoparticles in the air we breathe in could escape from the lungs and enter the body, but until now there was no proof,” said study co-author Dr. Nicholas Mills. “These findings are of wide importance for human health and we must now focus our attention on reducing emissions and exposure to airborne nanoparticles.”

Tips for Reducing Your Exposure to Air Pollution

heart-tic-tac-toe_facebookWhen we think about air pollution, we typically focus on contaminants like engine exhaust. The truth is, you’re much more likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of pollution when you’re inside your home.  Data from sources including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that indoor air pollution can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air pollution. Because indoor environments let contaminants build up, the concentration of pollutants can be up to 100 times greater!

While indoor air pollution can be even more hazardous to your health than outdoor pollution, there are also far more strategies you can use to reduce your exposure. Here are our top 5 tips on how to improve the air quality in your home…

  1. Let fresh air in: The simplest way to reduce air pollution is to open your windows, allowing the air to circulate and pollutants to dissipate. Keeping your windows open for just 15 minutes daily can substantially improve the quality of the air in your home.
  2. Make space for plants: as we’ve written about before, houseplants not only beautify a space, but also purify the air around them. Aloe plants … peace lilies … snake plants … and English ivy have all been shown to enhance air quality.
  3. Take preventative action: Fuel-burning appliance like natural gas heaters and stoves … furnaces … hot water heaters … space heaters … and water softeners can leak carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. To avoid this, be sure to properly maintain them and get them serviced regularly.
  4. Dehumidify the environment: Mold loves damp places. Use dehumidifiers and/or air conditioners to keep the humidity in your home below 50% and be sure to clean the units regularly so they don’t become sources pollution!

Choose candles (and cleaning supplies) carefully: Scented products can release particles called volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into your home. If you want to use products with fragrances, be sure to choose ones made with essential oils, and that any candles you bring into your home are paraffin-free.