There is an urgent need to address the pressing issue of poor air quality and its detrimental effects on public health as prolonged exposure to polluted air has been not only been linked to various respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and exacerbated allergies but also highlighted an alarming association between air pollution and increased risks of diabetes and heart diseases.

Air pollution vs diabetes, heart attack: Experts share tips to tackle poor AQI, smog (HT_PRINT)
Air pollution vs diabetes, heart attack: Experts share tips to tackle poor AQI, smog (HT_PRINT)

Dr Vishal Sehgal, President at Portea Medical, blamed it on the deposition of plaque in the arteries that underscores the critical need for immediate action. He suggested, “To mitigate the impact of poor air quality on health, it is imperative for individuals to stay informed about local air quality indices. Planning outdoor activities on days when air quality is better can significantly reduce exposure to harmful pollutants. Additionally, prioritising regular monitoring of lung health and promptly seeking medical advice when experiencing breathing difficulties are essential measures in safeguarding individual well-being. By taking proactive steps and fostering awareness, we can collectively strive towards a healthier and cleaner environment for all. Important measures that can be taken include using N95 masks when outside, employing air purifiers at home, and remaining well-hydrated to further reduce exposure to pollutants and protect your respiratory health.”

Dr Arbinder Singhal, Co-Founder and CEO at Fitterfly, revealed, “Pollution can significantly impact individuals with Type 2 diabetes, exacerbating their existing health challenges and potentially increasing the risk of developing the condition. Studies have indicated that exposure to air pollutants, such as particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, can contribute to insulin resistance and systemic inflammation, both of which are key factors in the development of Type 2 diabetes. In fact, research has suggested that individuals living in heavily polluted areas have a higher likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to those in cleaner environments.”

He pointed out, “For individuals already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, high pollution levels can further complicate their condition, leading to increased blood sugar levels and potential cardiovascular complications. It is imperative for individuals with Type 2 diabetes to adopt measures to mitigate the effects of pollution, such as staying indoors during peak pollution times, using air purifiers, and incorporating regular physical activity and a balanced diet to reduce the impact of environmental pollutants on their health. Through these proactive steps, individuals can better manage their condition and reduce the adverse effects of pollution on their health.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Divya Singh, Senior Surgeon at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Director at Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation, said, “Air pollution is no longer just an environmental concern but has escalated into a significant threat to human health and well-being. The detrimental effects of polluted air are well-documented and far-reaching, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Poor air quality disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities and individuals with preexisting conditions, underscoring the urgency of addressing this critical public health issue.”

She explained, “Harmful pollutants penetrate deep into the respiratory and circulatory systems, inducing various health adversities. It is closely linked to respiratory ailments and worsening conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and COPD. Additionally, it significantly elevates the risk of cardiovascular disorders, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Children exposed to polluted air may suffer impaired lung development, while adults may experience declining lung function. Certain pollutants, like benzene and formaldehyde, also increase the risk of cancer.”

Insisting that staying informed is paramount, Dr Divya Singh suggested, “Monitoring the air quality indices with the help of mobile apps and websites is crucial for safeguarding respiratory health. Installing high-quality air purifiers in homes and workplaces, ensuring adequate ventilation and minimising indoor pollution sources, such as tobacco and chemical irritants, can foster a safer indoor atmosphere. On days with elevated pollution levels, particularly during peak hours, it's advisable to curtail outdoor activities and consider indoor exercise. The use of N95 masks is encouraged when venturing outdoors.”

She added, “Opting for eco-friendly transportation methods, like public transit, carpooling, walking, or cycling, plays a key role in reducing emissions and enhancing air quality. Advocating for policies and initiatives geared toward mitigating air pollution and improving community air quality is a proactive step in safeguarding public health. Addressing the health consequences of poor air quality is a collective responsibility. Individuals, communities and governments must collaborate to implement effective measures and advocate for clean air policies. By taking proactive steps, we can safeguard our health and create a cleaner, safer environment for present and future generations.”

Dr Veena Aggarwal, MBBS, DGO, Consultant Women's Health, Trustee at Dr KK's Heart Care Foundation of India, echoed, “In response to the mounting air pollution crisis, it is imperative to draw attention to the health repercussions of deteriorating air quality and underscore the necessary measures to alleviate its impact. Hazardous pollutants (PM2.5) infiltrate the respiratory and circulatory systems, precipitating a range of health adversities. Air pollution is not only linked to the exacerbation of respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, it also elevates the risk of cardiovascular disorders, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Pollutants like benzene and formaldehyde are recognised as human carcinogens.”

Asserting that preventive measures for air pollution are essential to safeguard public health, she siad, “These measures include reducing emissions from industrial sources, promoting the use of cleaner energy and transportation options, and implementing strict environmental regulations. Additionally, raising awareness about the impact of air pollution and advocating for eco-friendly practices are crucial steps. On an individual level, people should minimize spending time outdoors and avoid all outdoor activities and sports. Using N95 masks when outdoors, installing indoor air purifiers (for those who can afford them), and reducing indoor pollution sources can mitigate personal exposure. Collaboration between communities, governments, and individuals is vital to collectively combat air pollution and create a healthier, cleaner environment for all.”

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