Those of you who consider yourselves procrastinators—and you know who you are—may want to listen up: your foot-dragging ways could be taking a toll on your heart. In fact, researchers from Bishop’s University in Canada say routinely putting off important tasks may lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) as well as high blood pressure.
The findings come from a new study published last month in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. For the purpose of the study, scientists asked a group of people to complete a series of online questionnaires focusing on health and personality traits. Some participants had been diagnosed previously with CVD and hypertension, while others were in good overall health.
When analyzing the survey results, researchers found that the procrastinators in the group were those more likely to suffer from heart disease, possibly because the same inclination toward postponing tasks leads folks to drag their feet when it comes to things like exercising or eating healthy foods—both of which are critical to heart health. Not only that, say experts, but by the time procrastinators finally do get around to these things, they may be even more stressed out about them than normal, the result of which is even more strain on the heart.
Unfortunately, say researchers, the putting-it-off-until-tomorrow gene seems to be a tough one to shake, but it can be done. Try making a personal “to-do” list when it comes to your health, and start with small tasks you can complete each day such as eating more heart-healthy foods or using the stairs instead of the elevator. In addition, consider asking for help from a friend or family who can provide support and encouragement.
Two new reports featured in The British Medical Journal point to air pollution as a potential threat to both mental and cardiovascular health. Specifically, higher exposure to fine particulate matter (from industrial sources such as automobile exhaust and power plant emissions) as well as gaseous emissions was linked to increased anxiety and stroke risk.
One report focused on data collected as part of a long-term study of more than 70,000 female nurses in the United States. From the information gathered, researchers were able to determine that the women who lived closer to major roads—and therefore higher levels of pollution—were more likely to experience increased anxiety symptoms such as fearfulness, worrying, and withdrawal. Additionally, symptoms were found to be strongest when exposure was more recent.
So, why the increased risk? Experts believe part of the reason may be because air pollution triggers an inflammation response in the body, which in turn causes the release of certain chemicals linked to psychological distress as well as changes in mood and behavior.
A second report focused on more than 100 different studies conducted worldwide. The goal was to determine whether or not a relationship exists between short-term air pollution and a higher number of stroke-related hospitalizations and fatalities. Indeed, populations exposed to higher levels of both fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants (including carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide) saw a significant rise in stroke rates—which rose exponentially as exposure levels increased.
The takeaway, say researchers involved in analyzing the data, is that we need to take steps to reduce exposure to air pollution and improve overall air quality, especially in highly populated areas where pollutants pose a serious risk to human health.