Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?” Firstly, we will briefly describe air pollution. This will be followed by an understanding of the AQI and its importance. Then, the article will outline the concept of high blood pressure. In addition to it, this article will emphasize the relation between air pollution and high blood pressure. In the end, the report will cover up the practical solutions to minimize air pollution.

Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?

Yes, bad air quality increases blood pressure. The pollutants which have shown associations with high blood pressure are as follows:

  • Particulate matter
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Sulphur dioxides
  • Ozone

Let’s first see what does air pollution means.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

WHO has suggested some revised guidelines on 22 September 2021 to improve the overall air quality. This organisation has decided to implement permissible limits of the earlier significant pollutants.

These permissible limits of ambient air quality are as follows:

PollutantsHourly mean concentration (ug/m-3)Annual mean concentration (ug/m-3)
PM2.5155
PM104515
NO22510
SO240
CO4
O38 hour: 100Peak season: 60

What is AQI, and what levels make it unhealthy?

Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has determined the air quality index (AQI) to know the air quality you inhale. The table given below will show how the air quality index looks like.

Air Quality Index (AQI)Levels of Health Concern
(When the AQI is in this range)(air quality conditions are)
0 to 50Good           
51 to 100Moderate
101 to 150Unhealthy for Sensitive group
151 to 200Unhealthy
201 to 300Very Unhealthy
301 to 500Hazardous

The primary purpose of AQI is to inform residents about the impact of local air quality on their health. The Environment Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The meaning of the Air quality index as mentioned earlier categories are as follows:

Meaning
Air quality is considered satisfactory; air pollution is of little or no risk.
Air quality is acceptable; some pollutants present in the air might be dangerous for a minority of people who are very sensitive to air pollution.
Members of sensitive groups may get ill effects. However, the general public is likely not to get affected.
This air quality level can pose a threat to everyone. However, members of sensitive people may experience more severe effects.
Emergency level of air quality; Entire population might be affected
Health alert: Every person breathing such air quality may get serious health issues.

 Thus, it is clear that excluding the first two levels are relatively good to venture out and to do various outdoor activities. However, the last three levels will give you or other adverse effects by inhaling dirty air. The above section will explain the health effects due to polluted air.

Now let’s dive into the details of high blood pressure.

What is high blood pressure?  

High blood pressure is a condition where the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is unexceptionally high. Such high force can lead to serious health issues, like heart disease.

Your blood pressure depends on the amount of blood your heart pumps and resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The blood pressure levels get elevated when your heart pumps more blood, and the arteries become narrow. The unit used to read blood pressure is in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).   

The symptoms of high blood pressure are as follows:

  • Headache
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath

If you are 40 or more than that, you should add blood pressure observation in your routine checkups. If you are in the age of 18 to 39 having a risk of high blood pressure, you also need to check your BP frequently. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension.

The environmental risk factors of high blood pressure are as follows: 

  • Temperature
  • Altitude
  • Latitude
  • Noise
  • Stress
  • Air pollutants

In the below section, we will understand the relationship between bad air quality and high blood pressure.

How does air pollution result in high blood pressure?

You must have heard that air pollution damages your lungs and affects your breathing efficiencies. However, many cardiologists have revealed that short-term and long-term exposure to high concentrations of toxic airborne pollutants affects your heart and the circulatory system.

Let’s see how various toxic contaminants affect your blood pressure.

Effect of pollutants on your heart

Researchers have studied that fine (PM2.5, PM10) and ultrafine particles pose a risk to the circulatory system. Tao Liu, PhD, deputy director and epidemiologist of the environmental health division at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China, conducted a meta-analysis to examine the link between air pollution and hypertension risk.

In this research, Tao Liu with the team focused on the pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter (PM). The meta-analysis noted that people associated with high blood pressure had short-term exposure to SOx, PM2.5 and PM10 and long term exposure to NO2 and PM10. The study of Tao Liu further noted that the people having hypertension were at more risk of heart attacks and other heart diseases.

Another study conducted by Tie- Gang Li. et al. in 2017 concluded that exposure to the pollutants such as ozone, soot, black carbon and carbon monoxide affect the pathological parameters of the blood. However, the researchers stated that more deep studies should be conducted on these pollutants.

Further, the research of Tie- Gang Li pointed out groups or communities which were at higher risk of hypertension. There is substantial evidence of a positive association of air pollution with blood pressure in children. The research also concluded that disturbed blood circulation could damage childhood growth and cardiovascular development. Additionally, the children were strongly affected by the short-term exposure to air pollution than the adults.

Moreover, pregnant women were also vulnerable to elevated levels of pollution. An upsurge in the blood pressure of pregnant women can lead to complications in the deliveries. The inhaled air can also pose a dangerous threat to the fetus. The new study of the American Heart Association has also noted that higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy can probably give birth to children who can develop increased blood pressure before the age of 10.

Dr Xiaobin Wang, a paediatrician and director of the Center on Early Life Origins of Disease at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, informed that the third trimester might be more vulnerable to air pollution.

The American Journal of Medical Association of 2003 reported that exposure to lead at levels exceeding the safe limits of the federal safety standards might be responsible for increasing blood pressure among older women. In addition, the women approaching menopause or at the postmenopausal stage can be vulnerable to lead exposure. It can increase the risk of hypertension, leading to the cause of death due to heart diseases.

Further, in menopause and perimenopause, many women may experience a surge in lead blood levels. This happens because skeletal stores of lead are released during periods of bone loss. Thus, people, especially women, should avoid exposure to potential lead emitting sources such as lead-based paint in the home, living beside a smelting plant or working in a battery manufacturing or welding facility.

Environmental studies have further observed that the pathological and biological parameters of the circulatory system can be affected when air pollution is considered with other environmental risk factors such as ambient noise. However, research needs to be done on such aspects. One of the critical factors which can increase your blood pressure is climate change. Climate change can tremendously affect the composition and toxicity of air pollutants concentration. Moreover, climatic factors, fluctuating meteorological conditions combined with air pollution can affect your blood pressure levels.

Let’s go ahead to see how air pollution affects the circulatory system.

How does air pollution affect your circulatory system?

The research done by British Heart Foundation has explained the effect of air pollution on the circulatory system. As per the research, pollutants such as particulate matter can dissolve in your bloodstream when your nose inhales filthy air. As a result, the pollutants-infused blood will start circulating in your body. These toxic agents can firstly damage the inside walls of your blood vessels. As a result, the blood can become narrower and rigid. Secondly, dissolved pollutants can restrict the movement of your blood vessels. Such restriction of blood movement can increase your blood pressure and add pressure to your heart. The US EPA has further informed that exposure to particulate matter and nitrogen oxides can age the blood vessels prematurely.

The other effect of the extremely high levels of air pollution is increased chances of blood clots. Additionally, the upsurge levels of hazardous contaminants can affect the normal electrical functioning of your heart, and thus it can cause abnormal heart rhythms. In worst cases, small changes in the biology of the heart can cause a risk of heart failure.

Let’s peep into the statistics of US citizens associated with high blood pressure due to air pollution.

Statistics of high blood pressure due to air pollution in the United States

  • Dr Xioabin Wang, a paediatrician in Baltimore, said that children exposed to higher levels of air pollution in the womb during the third trimester were 61% more at risk of hypertension in childhood.
  • The American Heart Association stated that about 2.4 million women of childbearing age are estimated to get affected due to air pollution in the US.
  • High blood pressure can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, a person affected by the cardiovascular disease may die after every 40 seconds in the US. Cardiovascular diseases contribute to an estimated death of 7.5 million people worldwide per year.

In the below section, I will provide you with detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea?

Can bad air quality make it hard to breathe?

Bad air quality in California

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?” Firstly, we briefly described air pollution. This was followed by the understanding of the AQI and its importance. Then, the article outlined the concept of high blood pressure. In addition, this article emphasized the relation between air pollution and high blood pressure. In the end, the report covered up the practical solutions to minimize air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?

Does air quality affect blood pressure?

Yes, poor air quality can affect blood pressure. Prolonged exposure to high levels of air pollution since childhood can develop a risk of increased blood pressure in children and adolescents. In later life, the children can have a chance of hypertension too.

Can bad air quality cause head pressure?

Yes, bad air quality can cause head pressure. Head pressure is nothing else but headaches. It is a widespread symptom- most people experience a headache when they inhale poor air quality.

Can air quality affect your heart?

Yes, air pollution can affect your heart. All medical studies show that polluted air affects your heart and the blood circulation system. Air pollutants can damage the inside walls of your blood vessels, resulting in them becoming narrower and more rigid. Such a change in biology can restrict the movement of your blood vessels. This increases your blood pressure and puts a burden on your heart.

What are some side effects of poor air quality?

Some of the side effects of poor air quality are as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Chest and nose congestion
  • Coughing, sneezing and wheezing
  • Dryness and irritation of nose, eyes and throat

 

Does the environment affect blood pressure?

Yes, various environmental factors affect blood pressure. The elements are as follows:

  • Temperature
  • Altitude
  • Latitude
  • Noise
  • Stress
  • Air pollutants

Can dust cause high blood pressure?

Yes, dust can cause high blood pressure. Short-term and long-term exposure to activities such as combustion of burning fossil fuels, vehicle exhaust, dust, etc., is linked with high blood pressure.

References

Air pollutants and high blood pressure, 2016. You’re the Cure. Available at: https://www.yourethecure.org/air-pollutants-and-high-blood-pressure  

Air pollution exposure in the womb linked to higher blood pressure in Kids, 2018. www.heart.org. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/14/air-pollution-exposure-in-the-womb-linked-to-higher-blood-pressure-in-kids

Air Pollution. World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1

High blood pressure linked to short-, long-term exposure to some air pollutants, 2016. ScienceDaily. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160531182419.htm  

Lead levels linked to high blood pressure,2003. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20030325/lead-levels-linked-to-blood-pressure

Li, T.-G. et al., 2018. Outdoor Air Pollution and arterial hypertension. IntechOpen. Available at: https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/59515

Linking Air Pollution and Heart Disease,2021, EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/linking-air-pollution-and-heart-disease

What is air pollution? BHF. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/air-pollution

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