January 24, 2011

Reduce Heart Risk: Get an Air Filter

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The air we breathe can negatively affect our hearts. However, using inexpensive, high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters reduces cardiovascular disease risk resulting from polluted air, according to a new study.

The researchers studied healthy adults living in a small community in British Columbia where wood-burning stoves are the main sources of pollution. The researchers found that HEPA filters reduced the amount of airborne particulate matter, resulting in improved blood vessel health and reductions in blood markers that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

After analyzing their data, the researchers found portable HEPA filters reduced the average concentrations of fine particulates inside homes by 60 percent and wood smoke by 75 percent. Their use was also associated with improved endothelial function (a 9.4 percent increase in reactive hyperemia index) and decreased inflammation (a 32.6 percent decrease in C-reactive protein).

"Our results support the hypothesis that systemic inflammation and impaired endothelial function, both predictors of cardiovascular morbidity, can be favorably influenced by a reduction of particle concentration and add to a growing body of evidence linking short-term exposure to particulate matter with a systemic inflammatory response," Ryan Allen, Ph.D., assistant professor from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, was quoted as saying. "Reducing air pollution appears to provide health benefits even if the pollution levels are already relatively low."

"HEPA filters are a potentially useful intervention since they are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and can effectively remove tiny particles that can be inhaled, to improve air quality inside homes where the majority of time is spent," Dr. Allen noted. "The importance of residential wood smoke as a source of air pollution is likely to increase due to the rising costs of other fuels."

SOURCE: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published online January 21, 2011