Have Environmental Factors Made It Harder To Take Care Of Our Heart?
“Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that’s what we are”. – Mickey Hart.
The environment is our surroundings or conditions in which we live and operate. It is of utmost importance for sustainable development and well-being. However, an individual has little control over environmental exposure, which can play an important role in the development and severity of various diseases.
The WHO has identified environmental air pollution as the world’s largest health risk accounting for about 80% of deaths due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke. Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic which are suspended in air due to pollution are listed among the WHO’s top 10 environmental chemicals. These chemicals pose a threat to our health and also mediate the development and progression of CVD.
Numerous research studies have shown that environments which involve adverse physical and psychosocial work conditions such as shift-work and excessive workload, work stress is also related to CVD. Let’s see how these environmental factors make it hard to take care of our heart.
Physical and Chemical Factors and Their Impact on Heart Health
Industrial hazards causing air pollution, Image Credits: pixabay
Particulate matter is the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in the air, some of which are hazardous. Particulate air pollution with PM 2.5 has been closely associated with adverse health effects such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular diseases. Studies have also shown that a PM range of 2.5 -10 is associated with several adverse health outcomes, causing numerous death and hospitalization from cardiopulmonary disease.
Household Air Pollution
Cooking on biomass fuel, Image Credits: pixabay
Biomass fuel originated from household pollutes the air affecting around 3 billion people worldwide. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollution in the form of household air pollution is associated with hypertension, heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, sudden cardiac death and cardiovascular mortality. So, even though food cooked on biomass fuel tastes better, one should avoid it, as the smoke released from it may risk your heart.
Studies have shown lead toxicity to affect around 26 million people globally, resulting in a loss of 9 million disability-adjusted life-years. There are multiple sources of lead exposure among which tobacco use is the most common one. Lead toxicity is associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. So, stop smoking and risking your heart for CVD.
Arsenic, Image Credits: pixabay
Arsenic is a naturally occurring metalloid found in the earth. The most common mode of arsenic exposure includes drinking water, soil, and food. Chronic arsenic exposure can lead to multiple adverse health outcomes, including CVD.
Caption: Cadmium toxicity on heart, Image Credits: pixabay
Cadmium toxicity, which commonly occurs from tobacco smoking, and additionally, from industrial exposure like mining, smelting, refining and industrial waste can pollute the air, water, and soil. This contaminates the foods which we consume including leafy vegetables, fish, and shellfish.
Cadmium toxicity may damage the cells through oxidative stress and impair endothelial function leading to elevated blood pressure and hypertension. Cadmium exposure is associated with diseases of atherosclerosis, stroke, ischemic heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, and acute coronary syndromes. Thus, uncontrollable cadmium exposure has made it harder for us to take care of our heart.
Noise pollution, Image Credits: pixabay
Numerous studies over the years have confirmed noise pollution to be associated with cardiovascular diseases. The studies suggest that noise from road traffic and aeroplanes hampers the body on the cellular level. It stimulates the stress hormones by activating the sympathetic “fight or flight” hormones. A spike in stress hormones may eventually lead to vascular damage, high blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
Caption: Man stretching in cold weather, Image Credits: pixabay
Temperatures during winters decrease, which makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm. This may cause your heart to beat faster by increasing the peripheral vascular resistance in order to pump blood to the whole body leading to hypertension. This is also one of the reasons for higher rates of CVD mortality during winters.
Heat during summers
Caption: Woman sweating due to summer heat, Image Credits: pixabay
Heat during summers may cause hypertension and heart rate variability. During summers due to high temperatures, our body attempts to radiate heat. When higher temperatures are coupled with humidity, you may observe more blood flowing towards your skin. This is because your heart rate increases and beats faster and harder to regulate your body temperature.
It has also been reported that during exercise, our body’s sympathetic activity is increased which is an additional stimulus of a heated environment.
Psychosocial Workload and its Impact on Heart
Chronic Work Stress
Job strain at work like high work-life imbalance, combined with high effort and low reward at work, and overcommitment, may cause elevated blood pressure and psychological stress leading to adverse effects on the heart.
Fatigue is another major occupational health problem that results in autonomic nervous dysfunction and sympathovagal imbalance. Both conditions are known to risk the heart.
Night shift workers are also under higher risk of developing CVD. It has been found that the circadian pattern and cardiac autonomic activity are predominantly affected in people who work during the night.