How the air you breathe affects your health?

Hundreds of millions living in cities where air pollution is a serious health hazard. More than 80 percent of people are living in urban areas where air pollution monitoring shows that they are exposed to air quality levels that are above the World Health Organization (WHO) admissible standards. Air pollution causes millions of premature deaths a year worldwide, 80% suffer on heart diseases and strokes, another 20% from respiratory diseases and cancers.

Let’s have a closer look what poor air quality does to you and your family.

Heart diseases and strokes

Extremely tiny particles being too small to be removed by the body’s protective filter system can penetrate the lungs and scientists suspect that the particles could then build up in blood vessels and raise the risk of heart diseases and strokes. Long-term air pollution exposure accelerates cases of atherosclerosis, which in turn increases the risk for heart attack. Moreover, the researchers claim that the higher the exposure level is, the faster is atherosclerosis progresses.

Asthma

Air pollution, such as ozone and particle pollution, irritate airways and can worsen asthma symptoms, asthma attacks are more likely to happen on high pollution summer days than on days with average pollution levels. Approximately 334 million people suffer from asthma, which is the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting 14% of children globally. And even if you have healthy lungs, air pollution particulates can cause breathing problems for everyone. Recently researchers have found that children, whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of outdoor and indoor air pollution during pregnancy, are more likely to develop asthma by age six.

Lower respiratory infections

Lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI), while often used as a synonym for pneumonia, is a disease that may be caused by air pollution. It is estimated that lower respiratory tract infection causes nearly 4 million deaths annually and is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years old. For decades, acute lower respiratory infections are among the leading causes of sickness and mortality both in children and adults worldwide.

COPD

The primary cause of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is tobacco smoke (including second-hand or passive exposure), but according to WHO, 35 percent of death from COPD is due to air pollution. COPD is a major cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States according to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, an NIH agency. Currently, 16 million people in the US are diagnosed with COPD, and many more people may have the disease and not even know it.

Cancers

There has long been concern that air pollution contributes to the global burden of cancer, especially of the lung, which receives the most substantial inhaled doses of pollutants. Now air pollution is associated with higher rates of not only lung, but also breast, prostate, cervical, brain, nasal, pharyngeal, liver and stomach cancer, and childhood leukemia. The WHO says that air pollution is the most important environmental cause of cancer.

Diabetes

A long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Numbers of data indicate that people who live in more polluted areas tend to have a higher level of blood sugar level than those who live in less polluted areas.

Brain diseases

The most common factor that increases the risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and  Autism is genetics. But new studies suggest that air pollution may also play a role. Pollutant particles might make their way to the brain and damage it directly, or they might attack it from a distance, by triggering the release of inflammatory molecules. Breathing heavily polluted air nearly doubles the likelihood of developing dementia in young children and elderly women.

Bad sleep

Researchers found people who live in areas with elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide and/or are exposed to particular matter of size PM2.5 or smaller may also have sleep disruptions. The negative effects of polluted air on sleep could be linked to the breathing issues it causes.

Poor mental health

Air pollution is bad not only for your physical health but also for your mental health and sense of well-being and life satisfaction. According to the recent studies at the University of York in the UK, polluted air is contributing to higher levels of personal happiness decline and depression.

Air pollution is one of the biggest problems we are facing today. Polluted air is a major environmental health threat and the list of health problems related to it seems to grow a little longer every week. Lots of people don’t know how serious health problems caused by air pollution can be, how does it affect our bodies, or how to reduce our exposure to it. Increasing physical activity and dietary changes can reduce the risk of disease development and therefore reduce susceptibility to the effects of air pollution. But it doesn’t mean you should buy a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements and spend several hours every week in the gym. Just try to eat healthy food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, as well as B vitamins, reduce salt intake and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. The benefits of regular exercising on diseases incidence are unequivocal. But you need to get into the habit of verifying the air quality in your region and avoid spending much time outdoors within urban areas on days with poor air quality. Why not planning a weekend in nature? If you have a chance to do so go hiking in the mountains. A day breathing fresh mountain air will do wonders for your health.

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