Air Quality and Your Heart

Publication Date: 
By: Alere Staff

  Air quality is a growing worldwide concern. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) global urban air pollution levels have increased by 8% between 2008 and 2013. While the most concentrated areas of air pollution are Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia, WHO reports that about 92% of the world’s population still live in areas where air quality is considered unhealthy.1,2 What this means is that even if you do not live in a congested area, you still may be affected by the pollution. As a patient on warfarin, you should be aware of how this air may affect your health.

Air Quality and Your Heart 

How does air pollution impact you? High concentrations of small and fine particulate matter in the air are some of the greatest risks to human health. Over a long term, air pollution contributes to health issues including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and pulmonary disease. Not limited to urban areas, pollution causes more than three million premature deaths worldwide every year.2 

When it comes to your heart, air quality is proving to be a major factor to your heart health. According to the American Heart Association, the effects of air pollution tend to greatly affect those people who are elderly or who are already struggling with a heart condition.3 There are short-term exposure risks as well. Short-term exposure to air pollutions can increase a patient’s risk of heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias and heart failure.3 

Talk to your doctor about understanding and protecting yourself from risk in your area. If you are on an anticoagulant, such as warfarin, monitoring your INR levels can help reduce your risk of stroke. 

Keeping Your Air Clean 

Controlling the air quality of your city is out of your control. However, there are steps you can take to lessen the effects on your health as well as keep the air from getting even more polluted. The methods can be simple and while you cannot control the action of those causing the largest impact, small steps by many people can create massive movements for change. 

Some steps you can take include:4

  • Turn the thermostat up a few degrees during summer as air conditioners can add to pollution at an already bad season for air quality.
  • Recycle as much as possible to decrease trash.
  • Support companies that reduce environmental impact.
  • Rideshare to work or school.
  • Increase awareness on pollution and participate with local organizations working to improve air quality.

Some other steps you can take to stay healthy include avoiding jobs where you may receive high exposures to pollutants like car exhaust and staying indoors when your area is having a particularly bad day for air quality.3 Something that seems as simple as the air we breathe can have a big impact on our health.

References:

  1. Air pollution levels rising in many of the world's poorest cities. (2016, May 12). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/air-pollution-rising/en/
  2. Alcorn, C. L. (2016, September 27). 9 out of 10 People Live in Countries with Excessive Air Pollution. Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://fortune.com/2016/09/27/who-air-pollution/
  3. American Heart Association. Air Pollution and Heart Disease, Stroke. www.heart.org. July 2015. Retrieved from the website: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Air-Pollution-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke_UCM_442923_Article.jsp#.WAp8Ik2H4dU.
  4. Energy and Air Pollution 2016 - World Energy Outlook Special Report. (2016, June 27). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/