(NaturalNews) It seems like a healthy thing to do: getting outside. Maybe you like to go for walks or spend an hour gardening or riding your bike. Unfortunately, if you live where the air is polluted, you could be hurting your health by simply breathing the not-so-fresh air.
That's the conclusion of a new Ohio State University Medical Center study –- the first ever to report a direct link between air pollution and high blood pressure, or hypertension. The results of the study are set to be published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
, a journal published by the American Heart Association
The cardiovascular researchers exposed rats to levels of airborne pollutants inside chambers. The animals breathed particulate matter equivalent to what people inhale every day. In fact, the scientists noted the levels were actually far below pollution levels in some parts of the U.S. and in many developing countries such as China and India. Over a ten week period, the blood pressure of the test animals spiked upwards
"We now have even more compelling evidence of the strong relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular disease," Sanjay Rajagopalan, section director of vascular medicine at Ohio State's Medical Center and co-author of the study, stated in an announcement to the media. "Recent observational studies in humans suggest that within hours to days following exposure, blood pressure increases."
Over three million premature deaths each year are caused by air pollution
, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the most frequently found pollutants in the air are particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide –- mostly as a result of power plants, car exhaust, and industrial emissions. In the press statement, Rajagopalan said his team's research could provide "guidance for the EPA to change pre-existing stringent standards in the effort to reduce air pollution
Another of the study's researchers, Qinghua Sun, is continuing to study the link between air pollution and cardiovascular risk by documenting vascular function in people before and after they attend the upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
Fortunately, you can take some control over the air you breathe indoors by reducing sources of air pollution in your home. For example, avoid the use of chemical cleaners and air fresheners, use air filters if needed, and make sure heat and air conditioning filters are cleaned frequently.
In addition, specific vitamins may help protect your health from the effects of bad air. Previous research at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine found that vitamins A and C benefited people with asthma who were sensitive to air pollutants and a recent study by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health found the nutrients folate, vitamins B6 and B12 help guard the heart from the impact of particulate air pollution.
About the author
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.