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Dr. Niti Chadha Negi - Effect of Air Pollution on Heart

Growing medical evidence suggests that air pollution increases risk of serious heart ailments such as heart attacks, heart rate disturbances and also sudden death. A good question to be asked is, how and by what mechanism does air pollution increase risk of heart diseases? This critical question has been answered by researches done over large population groups in polluted cities. 

To demystify the current matter, let us first understand how our body tissues get the much needed oxygen which is vital for all organs and tissues of the body. As we inhale air, it enters the multiple small airbags present in the lungs. The oxygen O2, present in the inhaled air then seeps into the network of blood vessels covering these airbags of the lung tissue. Blood transfers oxygen to all the tissues of the body. These processes are all essential for human survival. However, when air pollutants, both gaseous and small particulate matter (PM2.5) are inhaled into the lungs, these are absorbed into the blood vessels with oxygen. Once inside the blood vessels, these are transferred along with oxygen to all organs and get stuck to smaller blood vessels. Though these can get lodged to any organ vessels, they may produce acute symptoms lodged into critical organs like heart, brain etc. 

Once the small particulate matter enters the critical blood vessels of the heart, it leads to oxidant injury and inflammation into the blood vessels. Such oxidant injury and inflammation are a major cause of heart attacks and arrhythmias and may lead to sudden death in susceptible people. 

The second question to be asked is, what can be done to stay safe during these days of excess environmental pollution?

It is advised that whenever air quality degrades to very severe category, it is best to stay indoors most times other than when unavoidable. Second, cover your face and nose with protective N95 mask when moving outdoors. Especially avoid strenuous outdoor exercise and physical exertion during times of excessive environmental pollution. 

If even after following all necessary precautions, a person experiences discomfort in the form of breathing problem, chest heaviness, profuse sweating, uncontrolled sugar/ blood pressures, it is best to get yourself examined by Cardiologist and follow the advice. Neglecting these warning signs of heart problem may sometimes prove costly. Avoid polluting your environment and stay healthy & safe.