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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Air Pollution Increases Blood Pressure

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"Stay indoors, use air conditioning -- which filters out pollutants, and clean the filters," he says. "Take your medicines faithfully according to what your doctor prescribed. In terms of the larger picture, hopefully we can diminish and control air pollution problems through regulations and improved technology."

Not every expert is sold on the air pollution-blood pressure connection, however.

"Many things affect blood pressure," says William White, MD. "It's well known that blood pressure tends to be lower in summer than winter, because of the hot weather and because people tend to lose weight and be more active then. So it's difficult to sort out these complicated relationships, and I question whether there is a relationship between air pollution and blood pressure levels."

In any case, the most important ways to reduce blood pressure are to keep salt intake low, maintain a healthy weight, and be physically active, says White, who heads the hypertension division at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington and is founder and editor of the journal Blood Pressure Monitoring.

"Those who have high blood pressure or heart failure should read food labels and make sure their daily intake of sodium is under 2 to 3 g a day," he says.

Cities With Greatest Air Pollution, 1999

City

Number of Days With Air Quality Index (AQI) Greater Than 100

Atlanta

69

Bakersfield, Calif.

94

Charlotte, N.C.

42

Fresno, Calif.

8oxville, Tenn.

62

Louisville, Ky.

44

Memphis, Tenn.

36

Nashville, Tenn.

45

Phoenix, Ariz.

37

Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif.

97

Sacramento, Calif.

48

Washington, D.C.

39

Source: EPA Office of Air and Radiation

The higher the Air Quality Index, the greater the level of air pollution and the danger to health. An AQI value of 100 corresponds to the level EPA has set to protect public health. If the AQI is above 100, the air is generally unhealthy for sensitive people.

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