There are plenty of things you may be doing to improve your health, such as eating right and exercising. But what do you do about the factors that you can’t control?
Air pollution is a recognized contributor to some serious health conditions. Considering it’s “Air Quality Awareness Week”, it’s fitting to discuss the various ways you can improve your health through the air you breathe.
Air pollution—especially particle pollution—is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. New research is even linking it to an increased risk of cognitive impairment! Where you live and what you breathe have a major impact on your health.
Although you can’t control the air outdoors, there are a few steps you can take to improve the quality of the air you breathe.People who live in cities or who are close to major roadways or highways tend to breathe poorer-quality air than people who live on quiet streets or in rural areas. Car exhaust is a major contributor to particle pollution, as are factory emissions from factories, power plants, and other sources.People who constantly breathe in these emissions are 46% more likely to suffer “silent strokes,” and even experience faster brain-aging and structural damage. If you can get out of the city, and away from that pollution, it will be good for your overall health.But that might not be realistic for you. As an alternative, I’d advise you pay careful attention to the weather report’s Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI, which ranges from 0-500, can help you make decisions about how much time you should spend outside, and what kind of activities you should engage in, to reduce the amount of pollutants you inhale.If you have existing heart problems, you’ll want to make a few adjustments when the AQI is in the 101-150 range, which is also known as “Code Orange.” In this AQI range, instead of going for a run, you should do something less intense, like walking. If you had some major gardening on the docket, try some light weed-trimming or pruning instead.
You don’t want to be huffing and puffing while tending to the garden! If you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 55, pay close attention to the AQI.
— Code Green (0-50 AQI): “good air conditions”
— Code Yellow (21-100): “moderate air conditions”
— Code Orange (101-150): “unhealthy for sensitive groups”
— Code Red (151-200): “unhealthy”
— Code Purple (201-300): “very unhealthy”
— Code Maroon (301-500): “hazardous”
Paying attention to the AQI codes can aid greatly when it comes to exposure to pollutants, but there are a few things you can also do in your own home.
To keep the air quality high in your home, don’t allow anyone to smoke in it. I don’t care if your spouse or mother-in-law likes to light up—ask them to take it outside. It’s not good for your lungs, and it will increase your risk of lung cancer.
Monitor the humidity in your home, keeping it less than 50%. You may need to purchase a dehumidifier to bring the humidity down, but it’s worth the investment. Humidity can increase the likelihood of mold and dust mites, which are not good for air quality. Also be sure to address any moisture issues or leaks in your home.
If you have a gas stove, make sure there is a vent system to carry out any emissions. You might not think about it, but the gas coming out of your stove can cause air pollution, too.
Proper ventilation is important to help you get cleaner air, so make sure your home is up to par.
The air you breathe plays a big role in your health, so try to be as conscious as possible about it. Now, take a deep breath—and be safe and active this summer.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Long-term exposure to air pollution may pose risk to brain structure, cognitive function,” Science Daily web site, April 23, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150423182357.htm, last accessed April 27, 2015.
Fishman, S., “Will an Air Cleaner Help Me Breathe easier?” CNN web site, February 23, 2015; http://inhealth.cnn.com/breathing-easier-with-copd/will-an-air-cleaner-help-me-breathe-easier?did=t1_rss1d, last accessed April 27, 2015.