Air pollution ranks high on the list of serious health threats.
More than 40% of Americans—nearly 140 million of us—breathe unhealthy air, according to a recent report by the American Lung Association.
You would expect bad air to threaten lung health, but there’s increasing evidence showing that the risk is far more pervasive.
• Heart disease. Air pollution is ranked ninth among the most important cardiovascular risk factors—making it more harmful than lack of exercise or elevated cholesterol, according to a report in the European Heart Journal.
What makes air pollution so hard on the heart? Airborne particles trigger inflammation in the lungs and blood vessels that can increase atherosclerosis and the risk for clots. Even brief exposures to PM2.5—common airborne particles that are about one-fifth the size of a speck of dust—may increase cardiovascular risks. You are likely inhaling these particles on a daily basis.