This article has been authored by Dr. B L Agarwal, who is Associate Director at Institute of Heart, at Jaypee Hospital Noida. He did his DM (Cardiology) from SGPGI Lucknow & has accomplished over 5500 Angioplasties. He is an expert in performing Angioplasty through Radial Route. To know more about Dr. Agarwal or book an appointment, please call 0120 – 412 2222
A lot is being said in condemnation about the air pollution and how cities are engulfed in the soot and harmful pollutants. Winters make it worse for people to breathe. The dip in temperature makes the air heavy and the pollutants are condensed in the fog. People usually complain of breathing problems, throat infections and respiratory discomfort during these smoggy days.
The air around us contains oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, vehicular emissions, particulate matter and much more. Research says that the air in cities contains sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO2) that comes from burning of fossil fuels. Particulate matter in air is the dust, smoke, water droplets, pollen etc. It has been our observation that when thedensity of particulate matter and other pollutants in the air rises, we come across increasing number of patients suffering from bronchial disorder, asthma, heart attacks and congestive heart failure.
Effect on the heart
- Carbon monoxide, a vehicular emission, reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and overexposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal. Haemoglobin is the oxygen carrying chemical in the red blood cells. Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from attaching to the cells and also reduces the ability of haemoglobin to release existing oxygen. The red-blood cells practically become ineffective in carrying oxygen to the heart and other parts of the body.
- Prolonged exposure to sulphur dioxide causes pulmonary oedema and circulatory collapse.
- Particulate matter like soot or smog causes respiratory disorders. It also exerts pressure on the lungs in the process of purification. Minutely fine particulate matter is known to cause cardiovascular diseases.
- Another major pollutant in the air are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are organic compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine, bromine, fluorine, sulphur or nitrogen. VOCs are released from burning gasoline, wood or natural gas. They are also emitted from oil & gas fields, diesel exhaust, solvents, paints, glues etc. Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) is one type of VOC which is used in solvents, propellants, aerosols, refrigerators, plastic & electric wire manufacturing etc. High exposure VOCs directly affects our heart and central nervous system. It causes a disturbance in the heart’s rhythm.
Destructive air pollutants cause cardiovascular diseases such as artery blockages leading to heart attacks and impairment of heart tissue due to oxygen deprivation and permanent heart damage.
- Look for symptoms like wheezing, breathing problems, chest pain, skin ailments, soreness in the eyes etc. and immediately seek medication.
- In your house, you can keep air purifying plantsthat increase the oxygen level like spider plant, dracaena,peace lilyand snake plant.
- In case you go for morning walk, always keep a mask on your face to filter some level of pollutants that you breathe.
We still have time to act and reverse the damage done to the atmosphere. Conscious efforts from citizens to limit vehicular combustion, aggressively initiate tree plantation, spread awareness on the damage we are doing to the air around us and restricting bursting of crackers will be an initial step towards protecting this mighty cause.