Air Pollution Shown to Increase Heart Disease Risk
by: Bruce Brightman - LifeSource Vitamins
Now we may be able to add air pollution to the list of factors of modern life that increase heart disease risk.
For some time, we have known that air pollution can make asthma and other lung diseases, like emphysema, worse. The annual medical cost of air pollution's impact on these diseases is measured in the tens of millions of dollars.
What we are now discovering is that air pollution may also accelerate the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Several medical studies have suggested a link between air pollution and heart disease in people who are already at risk because of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, the mechanism by which pollution increased the risk of heart disease was unknown - until now.
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine and the University of Michigan explored the effects of air pollution and diet on a specific strain of mouse. They discovered that even small amounts of air pollution, in conjunction with a high-fat diet, led to a significantly faster build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries. The build-up of plaque is directly related to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
The researchers discovered that pollution, along with a high-fat diet, also increased vasoconstriction (spasm of the arteries), decreasing blood flow to the heart and brain. Inflammation also plays an important role in the production of plaque, and air pollution amplified the inflammatory response by 2.6 times.
Interestingly, neither a high-fat diet nor air pollution alone increased inflammation or vasoconstriction. But even a small amount of air pollution, when combined with a high-fat diet, resulted in significant plaque formation.
These data indicate that air pollution has a far greater effect on health than we first realized. Heart disease, a major cause of death and illness in both men and women, may be aggravated by air pollution from industry and automobiles.
There are ways to lower your risk of heart disease. Reducing the total amount of fat in the diet is important. Increasing specific omega-3 fats (docosahexanoic and eicosapentanoic fats) by eating more fish and fish oil, and eating more fruits and vegetables also can help. Regular exercise and weight loss are also beneficial for preventing diabetes and high blood pressure.
I also encourage activities to reduce pollution, including cleaner industrial emission standards and more fuel efficient cars. For example, a car made in France by the MIDI motor company operates on compressed air, carries five passengers, runs for about 180 miles/tank of air, has a top speed of about 60 mph and is "refueled" with a built-in air compressor. Why can't we do that in the US?
The best way to treat heart disease is to prevent it. Clean air, it seems, is a must.
Bruce Brightman – founder
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