A new study has found an association between air pollution and atherosclerosis, a condition marked by hardened blood vessels that make it difficult for blood to move through the body. This begs the question: Are you doomed?
There’s not much you can do about the air you breathe. Human beings have to be outdoors, at least sometimes, to live their lives. Unfortunately, the chemicals you may encounter can lead to negative health outcomes.
The new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, showed an association between exposure to environmental ozone and atherosclerosis, a condition that increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular-related illness.
This research does not prove cause and effect, but it did pinpoint a link between ozone exposure and thickening in the carotid artery, which carries blood to the head and neck.
You don’t have much control when it comes to inhaling ozone, particularly if you live in an urban environment. However, there are many factors that you can control in an effort to prevent or reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. In order to reduce the impact of environmental risk factors, taking aim at diet and lifestyle is your best option.
Arteries harden when fatty cholesterol accumulates along the walls to restrict blood flow. “Bad” LDL is the type of cholesterol that deposits, while “good” HDL can help clean it up. Therefore, finding ways to boost HDL and limit LDL can help.
The main sources of LDL cholesterol are high-sugar and processed foods featuring saturated and trans fats. Limiting these in your diet can help reduce LDL cholesterol.
On the other hand, eating more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and high-fiber whole grains and legumes can help clean up LDL, relax the arteries, and reduce the risk for atherosclerosis. Reducing alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and exercise can also help.
With regards to specific foods, as long as you’re eating plenty of fruits and the other nutrients mentioned above, you should be okay. Don’t worry about getting too specific but try and adopt something resembling the Mediterranean diet.
You might not be able to do anything about the air you breathe—aside from moving to the countryside. But even then, you still wouldn’t be out of the woods, so to speak. Focus on the things you can control so environmental factors play less of a role in your risk for disease.
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