Many Americans are aware of the dangers of heart disease and strokes and campaigns on television, billboards and online encourage eating right and exercising to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Now, as the baby boomers age and the Gen Xers enter into their 40s and 50s, heart disease and stroke is even more prevalent. Research is now showing there is yet another cause of heart disease and stroke – and not one people can control as easily as their diet: air pollution.

Recent studies from the American Heart Association have shown that those who live in big cities where there is high levels of air pollution, caused by car exhaust and smog, among other sources, can put certain demographics at even more risk for heart disease and stroke. “There are a wide variety of things in the air. Some are natural, some are manmade,” said Russell Luepker, M.D., a cardiologist and the Mayo professor in the School of Health at the University of Minnesota. “We are all exposed, to a certain degree.”

While there are many factors contributing to air pollution, living in cities, such as Los Angeles, that are known for high pollution and smog levels has resulted in more hospitalization and cardiac events. “Acute short-term effects of air pollution tend to strike people who are elderly or already struggling with heart disease, said Dr. Luepker, who is also an epidemiologist. Scientists have found that pollution with particles smaller than 2.5 microns are the height of the problem. These microns are usually caused by fuel combustion which can irritate the lungs and blood vessels around the heart.

The American Heart Association also found through these studies that the risk of death is greater from long-term exposure since air pollution facilitates atherosclerosis development and progression.
The issue is, while we cannot eliminate air pollution, there are ways to reduce your pollution in-take risk. These can be as easy as staying indoors during high smog days or by taking steps to improve air quality inside the home, where you have greater control over the environment, by removing contaminants in the air and surfaces in the home with advanced air purification technology.

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