How Does Air Pollution Affect Your Heart Health? Expert Explains
Air pollution and heart health: Continuous exposure to pollutants leads to plaque formation in the arteries thereby triggering heart attacks in patients who are at high risk.
Air pollution and heart health: PM 2.5 can get absorbed by the body and lead to inflammation
- Pollution levels have reached an all-time high in India
- Patients suffering fromatrial fibrillation may have felt worse
- India has 14 cities with the world’s worst air quality
The increasing air pollution has emerged as one of the three major factors contributing to cardiovascular diseases in India -- the other three traditional factors which contribute to heart ailments are poor dietary habits, blood pressure and smoking. It's been observed that exposure to polluted air over a considerable period of time affects the general health of an individual, and also has the potential to trigger the risk of heart diseases. Prolonged exposure to pollution can be extremely harmful for a healthy individual, as well as for those already suffering with heart ailments, there is scientific data that proves that pollution is bad for health.
Air pollution and heart health: Know the link between the two
Specifically around cardiovascular health, if the 2.5 micron particles increase by 10 per cubic metre, there is a 13% increase in the cardiac mortality which is high considering the present level which is around 400-500 or even upto 600 and above.
Pollution levels have reached an all-time high in India and patients suffering from angina or atrial fibrillation may have felt worse under these conditions, as continuous exposure to pollutants leads to plaque formation in the arteries thereby triggering heart attacks in patients who are at high risk.
One should note that high contents of particulate matter of 2.5 micron or less in size can be easily absorbed by the body and thus can cause inflammation of the body heart arteries. These are tiny particles with various composition of poisonous substance that are able to bypass the nose and throat, penetrating deep into the lungs and even entering the circulatory system. These fine particles are generated from power plants, aeroplanes, motor vehicles, agricultural burning, residential wood burning amongst others and once absorbed they can cause acute coronary syndrome, coronary artery disease and their risk factors such as hypertension.
According to a study by All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) and Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR) where they collected the India specific data from the medical journals published in the past 25 years, has clearly stated that the exposure to ambient air pollution increased in India to varying degrees in different states from 1990 to 2016. Since 1990, cases concerning cardiovascular ailments increased in India from 2.57 crore, which included 13 lakhs deaths in 1990 alone -- to 5.47 crore and 28 lakhs deaths in year 2016.
Sadly, India has 14 cities with the world's worst air quality that has contributed to over 1.24 million deaths with Delhi, according to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health. Unfortunately, Delhi is the sixth worst, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Governments have pledged millions of dollars and deployed extra teams to enforce existing laws that include a ban on farmers burning stubble after harves, but the sheer size of India makes rapid progress difficult.
Air quality generally deteriorates as winter sets in because of a combination of agricultural crop burning in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana, dust from roads and construction sites, industry, coal power plants and vehicular emissions. Additionally, toxic chemicals released in the air from vehicles and industries have been shown to damage the arteries supplying the heart.
Elderly, women and patients already suffering from cardiac issues are at higher risk to be affected by air pollution and hence they must especially take care during times of the day when air pollution concentration is known to be high.
It is imperative to take certain precautionary measures while going out, especially in the wake of such pollution levels.
(Dr. TS Kler (Padma Bhushan), Chairman, PSRI Heart Institute, New Delhi)
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