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Avoiding Air Pollution for Cardiovascular Benefits

"Air pollution should be viewed as one of several major modifiable risk factors in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease," contends a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) position paper published about a month ago.

The document primarily explores the mechanisms and relationships between ambient air pollution and CVD, but it ends with some advice on how physicians should counsel high-risk patients to minimize exposure to air pollution.
On detailing not only the main air pollutants that contribute to both short- and long-term mortality risk but also the mechanisms through which air pollutants contribute to different pathological processes, including inflammation and atherosclerosis, the authors emphasize that air pollution is not confined to the outdoors. Indeed, we know that many times indoor air quality is worse than the outdoors.

In a detailed "Societal and Personal Advice" section of the report, the panel focused on strategies aimed at reducing exposure to air pollution outdoors. For example, it said to:

  • Travel by walking, cycling, and public transportation, [which] should be preferred to car or motorbike.
  • Avoid walking and cycling in streets with high traffic intensity, particularly during rush-hour traffic.
  • Exercise in parks and gardens but avoid major traffic roads.
  • Limit time spent outdoors during highly polluted periods, especially [for] infants, elderly, and those with cardiorespiratory disorders.
The senior author acknowledged iIt might be almost impossible for people to follow all the advice, especially if they are walking or cycling to work during rush hour; however, "individuals can consider whether it is possible to identify less polluted routes or travel at times that minimize their exposure [to air pollution]" he mentioned in an interview.

For people who don't have access to parks in which to preferentially walk, jog, or cycle, he proposed that they consider exercising in a gym that has an air-filtration system, and also consider the use of a ventilation system with filtration devices for homes situated in areas where pollution is high.

The use of biomass sources of heat, including wood and coal, which generate particulate matter, is increasing in certain parts of Europe, especially in many northern European cities.

"Gas and alternative sources of energy such as nuclear, wind, hydro, and solar energy are cleaner, and at least some of these are available in many parts of the developing world" and in many parts of Europe he says.

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Source: Expert position paper on air pollution and cardiovascular disease

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