Top Physicians Urge Other Doctors to Screen Patients for Exposure to Air Pollution

A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine encourages physicians to screen patients for outdoor and indoor air pollution and offer solutions to reduce exposure. Numerous studies have shown that air pollution causes cardiac diseases and death.

The paper which Sanjay Rajagopalan, M.D and chief of cardiovascular medicine at UH Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute and Philip J. Landrigan, M.D, director of the Global Public Health and the Common Good Program, Boston College wrote adds that the government has a responsibility to enforce regulations and use technologies that minimize air pollution.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death 

Cardiovascular disease is a significant cause of death and disability globally. In 2019 alone, it claimed 18.6 million lives. About 957,000 of these deaths were in the U.S. Of the number of people that died from cardiovascular disease, 5.5 million worldwide contracted it due to air pollution. The number in the U.S was 200,000.

Most doctors look at several contributing factors when to comes to treating patients with heart disease. These factors include exercise, smoking, diet, and nutrition. However, Landrigan and Rajagopalan believe that they should also explain to their patients how air pollution can increase the risk for the disease.

According to the two researchers, physicians would address the neglect of pollution prevention measures in programs designed to prevent disease.

How to reduce exposure to air pollution 

They add that physicians should get their patient’s history of exposure to pollution. The histories will enable them to come up with strategies that lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. One such strategy is asking patients to avoid exercising after exposure to low-quality air. They could also avoid using incense sticks and fireplaces, which cause pollution. Other prevention measures include using air conditioners, air cleaners, and face masks.

Scientists have known for a long time that air pollution causes heart disease. Despite this, many physicians do not use the information in their clinical practice. The researchers hope their paper could change that.

They also note that the American Heart Association has established guidelines on limiting their exposure to air pollution. However, such associations and doctors cannot address the problem by themselves. Governments would have to step in.

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