Air pollution is slowly killing your heart. Micro-particles in the air expedite the absorption of lipids in the arteries, making them narrower, slowing blood flow that eventually leads to heart attacks.
In Delhi, the average level of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM, or PM10) in residential areas is 209 microgram/cubic metre, which is three times higher than the safe levels.
About 55% of Delhi’s population lives within 500m of roads with high levels of air pollution, putting them at risk of cardiac and respiratory problems.
“Air particulates increase arthrosclerosis, which is the deposition of fat in blood vessels of the heart and brain, ultimately choking it,” said Dr Karam Maximilian Kostner, cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Queensland. He was in Delhi to talk about the preventive aspects of cardiac ailments.
“Like tobacco smoke, air particulates cause inflammation in the lungs, which indirectly triggers heart disease,” said Dr Sanjay Tyagi, professor and head of department of cardiology at GB Pant Hospital.
“Lifestyle imbalances, like diabetes, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, nicotine consumption and increasing psycho-social stress are definitely contributing to heart attacks at early ages,” said Dr RR Kasliwal, chairman, clinical and preventive cardiology at Medanta, the Medcity.
Air pollution contributes to about eight lakh premature deaths per year, making it the 13th leading cause of deaths worldwide, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
Studies have shown that a drop in particulate matter pollution from 70 micrograms/ cubic meter to 20 can reduce deaths by 15%.
Even a few hours or weeks of exposure to air particles can cause heart attacks, irregular heartbeats and death, particularly among people at high risk for heart disease.