The Effects Of Air Pollution On Cardiovascular Disease

Recent studies suggest that living in a city with major air pollution can have detrimental consequences on cardiovascular disease. Many hospital admissions are the result of the fine particulate matter present in the air, causing decreased blood flow, which leads to heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI). 

A recent German study shows that breathing heavy traffic exhaust increases the risk of hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which increases your risk for heart attacks.  Often, when people jog during peak traffic periods, they are not doing their hearts any big favors.  While jogging is good for the heart, breathing in car fumes is not, yet people don’t take this into consideration when trying to keep fit. 

Participating in outdoor activities when air pollution is high results in decreased blood flow to the heart due to the need for deeper and faster breathing.  This can set off cardiac arrhythmia, as well as a heart attack and possibly sudden death. Additionally, people stricken with heart disease, such as angina, are susceptible to the wiles of air pollution. Angina, caused by decreased blood flow to the heart, is greatly exacerbated by the presence of air pollution, further decreasing the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients the heart needs to function properly.

Why is air pollution so harmful?  The air you breathe goes into the lungs and oxygenates the blood that circulates to the heart.  The blood then travels to the heart where it is pumped out to the rest of the body.  Just as the saying goes “we are what we eat”, applies just as well with “we are what we breathe”.  what goes in does not always come out, so it sits in the body disrupting normal functioning.  If your heart is not performing normally in the first place, air pollution will have a negative impact your heart’s ability to carry out the work of supplying the body with needed oxygen and nutrients.

You can prevent the negative affects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system by staying indoors when pollution levels are high.  If you must go outside, avoid exerting too much physical effort, as the harder you breathe, the more polluted air you will inhale into your lungs and this will have a direct effect on your heart. On a more positive note, when air quality shows signs of improvement, the effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system is diminished for those who are in healthy condition.