Shocking hazards of “fresh” air

Here in Manhattan, there seem to be two distinct camps. The hard-core environmentalists and the people who roll their eyes every time they hear the word “green.” I’ve got both types of patients. And I make it a point to remind the eye-rollers that being environmentally conscious isn’t just for hippies. Or about saving a few pennies on gas. It’s also about your health.

In fact, three recent studies highlighted just how strong the link between pollution and health really is.

The first group of researchers analyzed 10 years of data on 19,409 women. The conclusion: breathing levels of air pollution found in most U.S. cities was associated with significantly faster cognitive decline.

In the second study, researchers reviewed the medical records of 1,705 Boston area patients hospitalized for ischemic stroke. They found that when Boston’s air quality index registered “moderate” pollution, the odds of ischemic stroke leapt by over 30 percent. Stroke risk was greatest within 12 to 14 hours after exposure to air pollution. Especially traffic-related pollution (i.e. exhaust fumes).

And yet another report linked air pollution with heart attack.

What can you do? Pay attention to the Air Quality Index. The Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you how high the levels of pollution are in your city. You can search for your area’s AQI forecast by visiting

On days when pollution levels rise, you may want to skip your evening walk around the block and opt for some indoor activity instead.

You may even want to consider checking out your local fitness center. Many of them offer month-by-month plans that will get you through the high-pollution summer months. It may seem like a lot of trouble to go to. But it’s well worth it to offset your risk of brain decline, heart attack, and stroke.