Your Heart & Lungs

People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease are more affected by poor air quality. Just in the US, people affected include:

And one person can have all these conditions!

Exercise is key in both pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation and helps maintain health. It’s ok to be active! But the people most sensitive to air pollution should take steps to protect themselves. These steps include:

  • exercising outdoors--but away from busy roads--when the AQI says air quality is good;
  • exercising indoors when the AQI says air quality is poor; and
  • keeping indoor air clean by not smoking indoors or using poorly ventilated wood burning stoves or fireplaces and cutting down on vacuuming, burning candles or incense, and frying foods

Older people, and people with lung or heart disease, are more sensitive to adverse health effects from air pollution. Short-term exposure to unhealthy air quality contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular complaints. Short- and long-term exposure to particle pollution causes cardiovascular health effects and mortality, and is likely to cause respiratory health effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that people at higher risk of health problems caused by air pollution use the Air Quality Index (AQI) to learn about their local air quality and actions they can take to reduce exposure.

Learn more about the Air Quality Index at

Learn more about Pulmonary Rehabilitation (68 pp., 6MB, about PDF)

Learn more about Cardiac Rehabilitation

This article is courteous of the EPA's AirNow Program


R, Gong J, Barratt B, Ohman-Strickland P, Ernst S, Kelly FJ, Zhang JJ, Collins P1, Cullinan P, Chung KF. Respiratory and cardiovascular responses to walking down a traffic-polluted road compared with walking in a traffic-free area in participants aged 60 years and older with chronic lung or heart disease and age-matched healthy controls: a randomised, crossover study. Lancet. 2018 Jan 27;391(10118):339-349.

Wheaton AG, Ford ES, Cunningham TJ, Croft JB. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hospital visits, and comorbidities—National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, 2010. J Aging Health. 2015;27:480–499.