The benefits of living in Hudson County are numerous, from proximity to New York City and a vast public transportation network to great neighborhoods filled with restaurants, bars and shopping.
But living in one of the most densely populated counties in the United States can also take a toll on cardiovascular health.
While most people are aware of the common risk factors risk for heart disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, age and family history, there are lesser-known risk factors that can cause cardiovascular problems.
Among the risk factors that come with living in Hudson County are loud noises and air pollution, said Dr. Pragnesh Gadhvi, a board-certified specialist in adult cardiovascular disease and interventional cardiology at Jersey City Medical Center — RWJBarnabas Health.
“There is clear proven relation between noise and cardiovascular risk,” Dr. Gadhvi said. “Whether it is air, road or rail traffic, a dose-dependent association exists, increasing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that there is a net increase in coronary heart disease incidence by as much as 8% per 10 decibel increase starting at 50 decibels.
“In addition, traffic noise at night, which can lead to decreased sleep or fragmented sleep, can promote damage to the walls of our blood vessels by way of flux in hormonal levels and oxidative stress,” Dr. Gadhvi said.
In addition to loud noises, breathing polluted air is linked with heart disease.
“The air we breathe can have profound effects on our health,” Dr. Gadhvi said. “Air pollution a growing concern worldwide, and has been known not only to cause chronic lung disease, but also heart attack, serious cardiac arrhythmia and well as cardiac arrest.”
It’s not only gaseous pollutants like nitrate oxides, sulfur or ozone, but also particulate matter, whether fine or coarse, which are produced by diesel emissions.
“Driving with open windows in smog and not using air filters can potentiate these risks,” he said.
There are steps people can take that can reverse their risk of heart disease, Dr. Gadhvi said.
For one, an active lifestyle with at least 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-4 times a week can reduce cardiovascular risk, according to the American Heart Association.
“It has long been known that a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for heart disease,” Dr. Gadhvi said. “Less active, less fit persons have a risk for cardiovascular disease equivalent to smokers or those with high blood pressure or cholesterol. Sitting for long periods of time can both directly cause coronary heart disease and indirectly by way of leading to hypertension, diabetes or obesity.
In the US, it is estimated that nearly 60% of the population may be physically inactive. This alone has cost the nation over $5.7 billion in health care costs related to coronary heart disease.
While aerobic activity is important, Dr. Gadhvi said it’s important not to overdo it.
“Incorporating resistance training and mixing up your routine can offer added benefit,” the doctor said. “Resistance training can help increase muscle and bone strength. It can also improve the integrity of the support structures around muscle and bone such as ligaments and tendons.”
Dr. Gadhvi said people should not overlook the importance of the flu vaccination on cardiovascular health as well.
A 2020 study looked at more than 80,000 patients hospitalized with the flu from 2011-2017. In this study, significant cardiac complications were reported in 1 out of every 8 patients.
“Studies have shown that getting the flu can increase the likelihood of a heart attack as much as six times,” Dr. Gadhvi said. “Secondary illnesses can unmask and often aggravate underlying heart disease.”