Written by: Zanub Husain
Medically reviewed by: Rob Philibert, MD PhD
While April 22 is Earth Day, the entirety of April is Earth Month. The purpose of this month is to emphasize the importance of the environment, the planet we live in, sustainability, and how you can make the world a better place.
The health of the Earth has an impact on our heart health. Air pollution is a major stress on the human heart. It can damage your blood vessels by making them narrower and harder. Air pollution can stiffen your lungs causing your diaphragm and your heart to work harder– overall it is a significant strain on your ability to live a healthy life. The longer you are exposed to pollutants, the greater the risk of developing heart disease.
A study led by Dr. Joel Kaufman found that long-term exposure to particulate matter and nitrogen oxides at levels close to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) can prematurely age blood vessels and accelerate the buildup of calcium in the coronary artery. Since stiff and narrowed arteries have more resistance, in turn this buildup of calcium further hastens the onset of symptomatic coronary heart disease.
The more polluted an area is, the hotter it is. Areas with landfills may have temperatures up to 4.7 degrees warmer than areas without landfills. Vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and the elderly are especially affected by these ‘heat islands’ created by polluted areas. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, excessive heat can result in a stroke, heart attack, and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
Recent findings suggest that a fruit and veggie-filled diet may help reduce the stress of air pollution on one’s heart. In general, a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure which also contribute to heart disease.
By helping the earth, we can also help our hearts. Planting trees and increasing areas for shade are great ways to lower the temperature for communities impacted by pollution. Cool pavements can also help reduce the heat and possibly reduce flooding risks.
As we strive to improve our environment alongside our heart health, we can also incorporate the best medical tools available for individual use. Find out where your heart health stands with Epi+Gen CHD™. This heart disease risk assessment test could be your NextGen guide for healthier cardiovascular aging and preventative care.