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How Air Pollution Affects Your Heart

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You know air pollution hurts your lungs.

But what about your heart?

Dirty Indoor Air Bad for Heart

It turns out that air pollution is another factor that contributes to cardiovascular disease. According to a new study, air pollution can increase inflammation, which leads to many chronic diseases.

This study looked at the effect of air pollution that occurs inside the home, and a step that may reduce that pollution.

Indoor air pollution poses a particular problem to overall health because we spend most of our time inside.

That's why the new research from Canada is important, because it found that a type of indoor air filter could help cut risks to cardiovascular disease from pollution. This fascinating research further expands our understanding of the link between pollution, inflammation and disease. Reducing or eliminating sources of pollution and dealing with toxins is a major issue. To learn more about detoxification, see my article: Why You Need to Detoxify 24 Hours a Day

The research findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a journal of the American Thoracic Society.

Improve Indoor Air Quality and Cut Cardio Risk

Lead author of the study, Ryan Allen, Ph.D., assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, explained the goals of the study:

"Our main objectives were to evaluate the potential for a simple intervention to improve indoor air quality and reduce pollution-related cardiovascular health risks and to better understand the mechanisms that contribute to air pollution-related cardiovascular health problems."

Smoky Stoves Emit Pollution

The study looked at a little town in British Columbia, Canada where, as might be expected, smoke from wood stoves is not only a key source of heat, it is also a major source of air pollution inside homes.

So to see if they could clear the air and improve the health of residents, they put HEPA (high efficiency particle air) air filters into 25 homes. The air filters were installed in living rooms and bedrooms.

But Buses and Trucks also Emit Pollution

While the study was done in a town where wood smoke was the major source of air pollution, it is likely to be relevant to other environments in which the byproducts of combustion -- such as the particles from the diesel exhaust from trucks and buses -- foul the air.

Improving the Air with HEPA Filters

The results of the Canadian study were impressive, finding that the HEPA filters placed inside the houses tested worked to cut average amounts of fine particulates by 60 percent and wood smoke by 75 percent in the homes tested. They also discovered that using the HEPA filters was associated with reduced inflammation, namely a 32.6 percent decrease in C-reactive protein (CRP), and an improvement in a test for blood vessel function. Learn more about improving heart health: Love Your Heart with Stress Management.

The reduction in CRP noted in the study is comparable to those that have been achieved with dietary changes.

It should be noted however that the study showed a decrease in particulates and wood smoke from the filters, but not a complete elimination of the indoor air pollution. Removing the source of the indoor air pollution, in this case the wood stoves, should provide an even more dramatic reduction in indoor air pollution.

Dr. Allen concluded: "HEPA filters are a potentially useful intervention since they are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and can effectively remove tiny particles that can be inhaled, to improve air quality inside homes where the majority of time is spent."

To get a better idea about particle pollution, here's a bit more about particles from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

Particulate matter (PM) is composed of microscopic solids, liquid droplets, or a mixture of solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. Also known as particle pollution, PM is made up of a number of components, including acids such as nitric and sulfuric acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust particles, and biological contaminants.

Among the particles that can be found in a home are:

• Dust as solid PM or fumes and smoke, which are mixtures of solid and liquid particles.
• Biological contaminants, including viruses, bacteria, pollen, molds, dust mite and cockroach body parts and droppings, and animal dander.

Particles come in a wide range of sizes. Small particles can be fine or coarse. Of primary concern from a health standpoint are fine particles that have a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (µm) or less. These particles (described as "respirable") can be inhaled; they penetrate deep into the lungs where they may cause acute or chronic health effects.

Visit the EPA's site for resources on air pollution: Publications and Resources

Here in New York City where I live and work, the multiple sources of air pollution have led me to use HEPA filters for many years. Eventually HEPA filters were even added to vacuum cleaners in order to clean the exhaust from those machines. Naturally, for the filters to work properly they need to be checked and the filters replaced periodically.

Help clear the air by forwarding this article to your friends and family with wood stoves, fireplaces, or any other source of indoor air pollution. And share on Facebook.

Now I'd like to hear from you...

Do you use a wood stove, fireplace or any other source of indoor air pollution?

Do you use an air filter?

If so, have you noticed any benefit from the filter?

Please let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best Health,

Leo Galland, M.D.

Leo Galland, MD is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food. Sign up for FREE to discover how your medications and vitamins interact. Watch his videos on YouTube and join the Pill Advised Facebook page.

References:

"An Air Filter Intervention Study of Endothelial Function Among Healthy Adults in a Woodsmoke-Impacted Community"
Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2011, doi:10.1164/rccm.201010-1572OC
Ryan W. Allen, PhD, et al., Simon Fraser University, Faculty of Health Sciences, BC Canada

The study was funded by the British Columbia Lung Association, British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Health Canada.

"Residential Air Cleaners (Second Edition): A Summary of Available Information"
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Website

This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician--patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.