How external stressors affect your heart

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How external stressors affect your heart

When the topic of cardiovascular health comes up, many people are likely to pinpoint personal habits as the main contributing factor to a well-maintained circulatory system.

While the importance of self-care can’t be overstated, and the genetic link can’t be denied, environmental factors such as air pollution, pesticide exposure, and microplastics leached into our water systems have only recently been studied for their effects on cardiovascular health.

As climate change continues to negatively affect our environment, having the necessary knowledge to protect your cardiovascular health grows more imperative.

Air pollution and heart health

Air pollution is more likely to have an adverse effect on the cardiovascular health of individuals who already have risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Agricultural chemicals and heart health

The chemicals used in agricultural production—for both industrial and home use—have long been a concern when it comes to the health effects of toxic exposure, including for heart health.

Heavy metals and heart health

Long-term exposure to heavy metals, including lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic have long been associated with harm. Recent studies have exposed a link between heavy metal exposure and metabolic syndrome (which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, or stroke), although research is still evolving.

Microplastics and heart health

Plastic is ubiquitous in our world, and their miniscule byproducts—plastic particles less than 5 mm in size—are present in everything from food, water, and air to personal care products and even plants. Microplastics can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed, and groundbreaking research has recently identified microplastics in the human bloodstream.

Because microplastics come from a huge variety of different plastic products, they can carry harmful toxins that were used in the creation of the plastic product from which it originated. Bisphenol A (BPA) plastics, for example, are linked to cardiovascular disease, specifically elements such as cobalt, chromium, and barium.

Quick tips

There are many ways to cut down your contribution and exposure to environmental pollutants.

  • Choose natural fabrics over synthetics, and use a dryer filter to reduce the release of microplastics when doing laundry.
  • Opt for glass food storage containers or reusable wax wraps over plastic.
  • Avoid personal care products that contain microbeads; look for polyethylene and polypropylene in the ingredients list.
  • Fill your home with indoor plants known for their air filtration properties.
  • Support sustainable companies with excellent environmental leadership.
  • Whether you’re concerned about particulates from wildfires or traffic-related pollution, check the Air Quality Health Index website for the air quality in your area. Preventive measures could include face masks, such as surgical masks or N95s, which have been shown to protect against outdoor air pollution, while the use of air purifiers have been shown to be effective against indoor air pollution.


By Ashley Linkletter