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What You Need To Know About Particle Pollution And How It Could Affect Your Heart

A sign posting an alert for bad air quality is shown along Interstate Highway 635 in Dallas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009.
Associated Press
A sign posting an alert for bad air quality is shown along Interstate Highway 635 in Dallas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009.

Ozone and particle pollution found in unhealthy air can be hard on the respiratory system. But the particle pollution also can affect your heart. Cardiologist Dr. Amit Manhas explains why.

Particle pollution results from burning, says Manhas, who's with Baylor Scott and White Cottonwood Cardiology in Irving and Lake Ridge.

“When we incinerate garbage, when we have industrial production that is burning various chemicals and compounds,” he said, “it can lead to these small particulate matters – things that are between 2 and 5 microns in the air, for various reasons.”

The particles are mostly outdoors, but they also reach inside your home, filtered by your air conditioning system or just by being in a sealed environment.

“There’s more pollution outside than inside your home,” he said. “The amount of time you spend in each could determine how much you’re impacted by air pollution.”

Manhas says research suggests the amount of particle pollution you’re exposed may lead to coronary calcification – or a buildup of plaque in the arteries – and an increased risk of a coronary event.

Diet and exercise can have the strongest impact on taking care of your heart. But as for particle pollution, Manhas names other ways individuals can help themselves:

  • Becoming more aware is the first step.
  • If you walk or bike or have an electric car, that would reduce the amount of air pollution.
  • Try to avoid running or walking during rush hour, when you’re directly exposed to the pollution of the traffic. Consider running in off-peak hours.
  • Be aware of air quality reports and try to avoid exposure at that time.

However, Manhas adds: “I would really emphasize that solving this problem is very difficult to do on an individual basis. When you want to address something that’s more societal and larger scale, we have to work together on that.”


American Heart Association: Air Pollution and Heart Disease, Stroke

Air pollution: A threat to your heart and longevity?

State of the Air Report

Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.