What Can You Do to Protect Your Family's Heart Health from Air Pollution


“Usually we get one or two severe heart attack patients who arrive at our emergency room daily,” said Dr. Muhlestein.. “But instead of one or two, we had six or seven patients with heart attacks during a particularly unhealthy air day. From my experience, I believe that a even a single day of unhealthy air places people at greater risk for heart attack.”

So, what can you do to protect your family? Dr. Muhlestein recommends that you do four things to help protect your family’s hearts:

Pay attention to the air in your home

Be sure indoor air is free of smoke, dust and chemical fumes. Some ways to improve the air quality in your home include: using a damp rag instead of a feather duster when dusting, regularly checking and replacing your furnace filter, and make your home a Smoke-free Zone.

Listen to your body

Get to know your own responses during unhealthy air times– and when you need to change your plans.

Get to know your neighborhood

Pay attention to places and times of day where air quality affects you the most.

Learn more

Get more information about how you can improve air quality – both outdoors and in your home. Utah Clean Air, AirNow.gov and the Environmental Protection Agency are great resources.

What Should You Know about Air Quality?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) measures how clean or unhealthy the air is everyday. An AQI above 101 is considered unhealthy due to the number of particulate matter in the air.

Particulate matter is made of tiny particles in the air like dust, dirt, soot, and smoke. In northern Utah, high rates of particulate matter are more common and more problematic in winter months – which is what causes our winter inversions.

“If you have heart disease or an underlying heart condition, particulate matter floating in the air can increase your risk of experiencing a heart attack,” said Dr. Muhlestein. “During unhealthy air quality days, everyone, but especially those with heart disease, should change their behaviors to avoid or limit their time outdoors.”

Particulate matter is often reported as PM 2.5 or PM 10. Both are extremely tiny. It would take five PM 10—or 20 PM 2.5—particles to span the width of a human hair. Your nose and airways can filter out the larger particles from the air you breath before they reach your heart or lungs, but smaller particles can get into your blood and cause blood vessels to narrow, thus increasing your changes of developing serious health problems.