Most of us already know that air pollution is detrimental to our health. But did you know that it could trigger serious cardiovascular conditions and even premature death? A new American Heart Association scientific statement found that evidence connecting air pollution to chronic cardiovascular conditions “substantially strengthened,” and that people should reduce their exposure. Air pollution is recognized as a modifiable risk factor for heart disease.
Breathing in polluted air for just few hours or weeks can increase risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats and cardiovascular death, especially in susceptible individuals. And long-term exposure can further increase cardiovascular risk and reduce life expectancy by several months to a few years.
So what can you do to reduce your risk? The association has outlined steps that government and individuals can take including creating “green” spaces and encouraging “walkable” neighborhoods when air quality standards are at a safe level. Other ideas include checking your local EPA and National Weather Service Air Quality Index ratings at www.airnow.gov, which let you know when pollution levels are too high to exercise or spend a lot of time outdoors.
To grab the attention of Congress about this life-threatening issue, AHA and the Environmental Protection Agency are co-sponsoring a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers about the link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease. The association also plans to monitor opportunities at the state and federal level to decrease the amount of particulate matter air pollution. Additionally, AHA has been working with local offices and individuals to identify more than 200 Start! Walking Paths in communities across the country. Find a local walking path at startwalkingnow.org.
To learn more about how you can speak up for heart-healthy communities, visit www.yourethecure.org.