By Dr. Mike Moreno
Author of The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging
It's hot, humid, and smoggy this summer, and no matter where you live, chances are you have seen signs that the quality of the air we all breathe in and out every day isn't what it once was. There are other types and sources of outdoor air pollution (including carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide), but I'd like to focus on ozone, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter.
You cannot see ozone pollution. Ozone, which is a gas comprised of three oxygen molecules, may not sound harmful on its surface. It's just oxygen, right? Well, when it gets into the tissues of your lungs, a reaction occurs that causes damage. This damage leads some people to experience trouble breathing, pain, inflammation, and more. It can land some high-risk folks in the hospital.
Get informed. Your local news outlets typically report on the level of ozone in the air, especially during the summer, when levels tend to be higher. Air Quality Action Days, or Ozone Action days, occur when the levels of O3 are quite high in the air, and you should take certain precautions (such as keeping windows closed, carpooling, and working out indoors) on these days, especially if you have a respiratory infection or condition. Children, people over the age of 65, diabetics, folks with heart conditions, and those who spend a lot of time outdoors are all at higher risk for suffering from the effects of ozone. On these days especially, I advise everyone-but especially my high-risk patients-to stay indoors during daylight hours as much as possible.
Reduce your own toxin output. Consider carpooling, don't fill your gas tank until after the sun goes down (the gas vapor released won't have any sunlight to mix with and will release less pollution into the air), and don't mow your lawn (or wait until after dark, for the same reason). Even if you're a healthy individual, don't go outside for a run in the middle of the day on an Ozone Action Day. The faster you breathe, the more pollutants you're taking in. You know I'm a big fan of exercise, but your run can wait or you can work out indoors.
Supplement against air pollution. The fact is that air pollution is everywhere. There are several ways you can bolster the health of your lungs and airways, including practicing the supplementing with B-complex vitamins to balance methylation and mastering deep breathing techniques. In addition, there is some evidence that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially fish oils, can help by slowing the oxidative stress that occurs when we're exposed to air pollution. Also, we know the power of antioxidants, especially when it comes to eradicating free radicals, so boost your antioxidant intake when air pollution in your area is a problem.
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