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Even Low Levels of Traffic Pollution Tied to Heart Damage

A new study on air pollution’s effects on the heart shows that traffic-related pollution can cause enlargement of both sides of your heart. Researchers looked at data from MRIs for 3,920 adults who didn’t have cardiovascular disease and found that even relatively low exposure levels could trigger patterns of heart failure development, Reuters reports. Scientists surmized that the polluted air causes inflammation when the particulate matter enters the bloodstream, which then overworks the heart.

With colder days coming in the Northern Hemisphere, it goes without saying that extreme cold can be a trigger for sudden cardiac death, especially when it’s combined with exposure to particulate pollution like you find in high traffic areas. We’re talking about microparticles as much as 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair — and the combination of the cold air with these microparticles is so lethal that scientists believe it may produce a perfect storm on your heart, even in healthy individuals.

Nearly 92 percent of the world population breathe polluted air. Past research has already found a link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, but more and more researchers are being surprised by just how much damage those microscopic particles entering the bloodstream can do to your heart.

The question, then, is what can you do to protect yourself? One way is to limit your outdoor exposure when you know pollution levels are high, especially when the temperature goes below 55 degrees F. Other strategies can be found in my article, "The Air We Breathe Is More Polluted Than You Know," which also outlines the primary sources of indoor pollution, as well.

And since your home (or office) can be as polluted or even more polluted from these other sources, I can’t stress enough the importance of using high-quality air purifiers that utilize photocatalytic oxidation (PCO). Rather than merely filtering the air, PCO actually cleans the air using ultraviolet light. Unlike filters, which simply trap pollutants, PCO transforms the pollutants into nontoxic substances. In addition to using them in your home, portable air purifiers are available to take with you when you work or travel.

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