How does air pollution affect older adults?
Older adults are more vulnerable to the health impacts of breathing smog. Older adults may spend more time outside than younger adults, leading to increased exposure to air pollution. They also have a higher prevalence of underlying diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and heart disease that may make it harder to counter pollution damage.
And because of the aging process, older bodies are less able in general to fend off inflammation and other damage from breathing air pollution. Particulate pollution increases ER visits and causes premature death in older adults. And evidence suggests that smog exposure increases death rates.
What type of health risks do older adults face from air pollution?
A study of older adults has found that long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with brain damage and a type of “silent” stroke. Air quality affects blood pressure and blood vessels. After exposure to pollution, some fine particulate matter stays in the lungs, causing inflammation. This can cause blood vessels to stiffen, reduce their flexibility, and weaken blood vessels, which can increase the risk of heart disease or stroke.