When a colleague of mine accepted a recent promotion and moved to Beijing, he thought it was the opportunity of a lifetime. The chance to experience a new culture, live in a large, bustling city and discover new and unusual cuisine excited him. Until he arrived under a cloud of pollution unlike anything he had ever seen.
Many of China’s most populated areas exist under an Air Quality Index that consistently measures in the “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” range. Face masks are a common sight; my friend bought one almost immediately. Officials warn that such high levels of pollution can aggravate heart and lung disease and increase the risk of premature mortality in the elderly and those with cardiopulmonary disease. With air like this, a casual stroll through the city becomes a death-defying challenge.
Now, a comprehensive review of the research conducted by scientists at China’s Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Guangzhou has found a direct linear relationship between air pollution and high blood pressure, adding even more cause for concern.
Both short-term and long-term exposure to certain pollutants can result in changes to the arteries caused by inflammation and oxidative stress, the authors note, cautioning that all individuals should be aware of the risks.
So now that we’re aware, what can we do?
The face mask is your first line of defense. It may not be fashionable, but it’s the one thing you can do to put a barrier between you and the particulates in the air you breathe.
Supplements can be helpful, too. They’re not going to prevent or cure any existing disease, but they can help your body defend against the harmful effects of pollution.
My colleague in China developed his own regimen for what he calls his “air defense.” He takes Glutathione every morning. This master antioxidant is the body’s most important intracellular antioxidant, which means it defends against oxidative damage inside your cells. It’s also involved in helping the liver, kidneys and lungs eliminate toxins. If you’re living with air pollution, Glutathione may be the most important supplement you can take.
He also takes Resveratrol—the anti-aging antioxidant from grape seeds and red wine—which has been recognized in some research for supporting healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular health in general. And finally, upon reading the new research, he added L-Arginine to his program. L-Arginine is an amino acid that supports healthy circulation by helping to keep the vascular network healthy and functioning optimally.
As the authors of the new report acknowledge, it is simply impossible to remove all air pollutants from our environment. Thus, any strategy for defense should be considered. I think my friend in Beijing is on the right track. Armed with his “air defense” regimen, he feels confident in the city and is now enjoying everything China’s second-biggest city has to offer.