Masks have become commonplace in many parts of the world as some elect to use the devices to reduce the risk of COVID-19. But a new study suggests they may offer even more.
A recent study out of China has found that exposure to common air pollutants, even at levels below World Health Organization air quality guidelines, may trigger heart attacks in less than one hour.
The study found that the risk was highest for older individuals and when the weather was colder.
Results showed that exposure to any level of common air pollutants — fine particulate matter, coarse particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone — could quickly trigger the onset of acute coronary syndrome.
Acute coronary syndrome, or ACS, is an umbrella term used to describe any situation where blood supplied to the heart is blocked. Heart attacks, unstable angina, or chest pain caused by blood clots that temporarily block an artery are all included.
Air pollution is already linked to heart disease, stroke, other health issues, and about 4.2 million early deaths each year around the world. Fine particulate matter (microscopic solids or liquid droplets) that come from automobile emissions, construction sites, power plants, etc., are one of the leading sources of dangerous pollution.
This new study was the first to show how quickly, and at virtually any level, these pollutants can trigger a cardiac event.
So, how can you reduce your risk?
Keeping windows closed and using portable air cleaners with built-in air conditioning filters can help when you’re at home.
But you can’t be indoors all the time. When you step out, wearing a well-fitting mask covering your nose and mouth can help block pollutants from entering your body. In turn, they may reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or another cardiovascular event.