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    Fact or Fiction: Does Pollution Age You?

      |  Aug 10, 2023

    Clean air is essential to all forms of life on Earth, but unfortunately the air we breathe isn’t always fresh. Air pollution, when the atmosphere is altered with chemical or physical pollutants, is an issue across the globe, even in the United States where air quality concerns had previously been declining for decades

    Air pollution affects our health, and it especially impacts the aging process — from the quality of our lungs to the appearance of our skin. Let’s take a closer look at air pollution, how it ages us, and how we can prevent or negate its effects.

    Who is most susceptible to air pollution?

    According to the World Health Organization, 99% of the world’s population breathes air that contains high levels of pollutants. While people from low- and middle-income countries are more susceptible to air pollution, no one is immune from its effects. 

    In the United States, people living in large metropolitan areas and cities are also regularly exposed to air pollution from cars and factories. In recent years, pollution from wildfires in major cities—ranging from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York—has become of increased concern.

    How does air pollution age us?

    Air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs and may cause your immune system to become more reactive, leading to inflammatory diseases like asthma and cardiovascular disease. Combined with the effects of household air pollution, commonly seen in households that cook over open fires or use simple stoves with kerosene, air pollution leads to 7 million premature deaths each year.

    Air pollution also impacts our skin by inducing oxidative stress, which damages collagen and elastin production. Collagen and elastin keep your skin smooth, tight, and firm, and naturally reduce as you age. Air pollutants (along with UV exposure and cigarette smoke) can reduce collagen and elastin prematurely, speeding up signs of aging like fine lines and thin skin.

    How do we prevent aging from air pollution?

    If you live in a large city, it can be difficult to escape air pollution, but there are ways to protect yourself, reduce the amount of pollution you’re exposed to, and reduce the impact of air pollution in the body.

    One easy way to protect yourself from air pollution is to monitor the daily Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI measures the level of air pollution in a given area, and is available in the majority of weather apps on your phone below the daily temperature. AQI ranges from 0 - 500 — with an AQI of below 100 considered to be satisfactory. When AQI exceeds 100, sensitive groups, which include anyone with asthma, heart diseases, older people, children, minority populations, and people who work outside, should spend less time outside and monitor any symptoms like shortness of breath. Although rare, when AQI reaches above 150, anyone can experience negative health effects. If you have to go outside, wear a mask, and limit strenuous activity.

    Thankfully, AQI in cities like New York is regularly below 100, but we still experience the effects of air pollution. To reduce your exposure on a daily basis, try spending time in greenspaces or parks. The trees and other plant life in parks has been shown to actually remove pollutants in the air. These are also spaces where you’re less likely to encounter common causes of pollution, like exhaust fumes from cars.

    Certain supplements can also reduce overall levels and impacts of inflammation on the body. N-Acetylcysteine, an amino acid, increases levels of l-glutathione in the body, which supports over detoxification and anti-inflammation. It’s available in daily supplement form, and also prevents general wellness as you age.

    A Vitamin C or other antioxidant serum can also reduce the impact of air pollution on the skin by fighting against free radicals that cause oxidative stress. A serum like Revision’s C+ Correcting Complex can both defend and correct the effects of oxidative stress on the skin.

    Discover what’s impacting your aging process

    Everything from air pollution to hormonal imbalances can impact our quality of life as we age, impacting our sleep, mood, cognitive function, and overall health. Modern Age’s Wellness Assessment can help. After a blood test, bone scan, cognitive assessment, and metabolic health test, you’ll work 1:1 with a licensed clinician to uncover the causes of common concerns that come with aging, and create a custom plan designed to address your unique needs. Book a free consultation today.