Winter smog can precipitate heart problems and lead to severe heart attacks

“The Heart Care Foundation of India urges people with existing health conditions to take precautions and avoid venturing out during smoggy weather”

New Delhi, December 06, 2018:

Winter is the month to get more heart attacks especially early in the morning as the blood vessels constrict at that time due to sympathetic over activity and if the atmosphere is full of smog the risk can even double.

Recent statistics indicate that India is home to the top 10 smoggiest cities by both PM 2.5 and PM 10 measures. The small particles of air pollution, or PM 2.5, pose the greatest threat to human respiratory systems, according to the World Health Organization. The larger ones or PM 10 also have numerous health effects. Winters bring low wind speeds and increased humidity levels in the air. All this in turn will lead to worsening of the smog conditions since the pollutants hang low and do not disperse.

Air pollution is a reality today and a subject of much discussion. Several studies have demonstrated the association of poor air quality with diseases such as respiratory and heart diseases, global warming making it a major public health problem of concern.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Whenever the humidity is high, air movement is less, and temperature is low, fog is the automatic result. It occurs when water droplets are suspended in the air. Smog, on the other hand, is the combination of smoke and fog. When the level of pollutants is high in the atmosphere, the pollutant particles get mixed into the fog, thereby reducing the visibility further. The result is called smog. The smoke includes toxic emissions from vehicle pollutants, open burning of crops or industrial pollutants. Fog and smog are more common during wet or early winter. Wet winter is characterized by fall in temperature along with high humidity. Whereas, dry or late winter is characterized by absence of fog, smog and presence of chilly airy winds.”

According to a study poor air quality or smog is one important reason for developing the worst kind of heart attack leading to premature death. The risk is even more in people with existing heart problems.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Exposure to smog has known adverse health effects. Acute ill-effects may include redness of eyes, coughing or throat irritation, difficulty in breathing. Smog can trigger acute asthma attacks; it may even trigger a heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia. Children, elderly, patients with diabetes, heart and lung diseases are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of smog and so should take special precautions to protect themselves.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis should get the dose of their medicine increased during smog days.
  • Avoid exertion or activities like running, jogging in conditions of smog.
  • Avoid walking during smog hours.
  • Avoid going out as much as possible.
  • Drive slowly during smog hours.
  • Heart patients should stop their early morning walk during smog hours.
  • Remember to get flu and pneumonia vaccination.

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