Woman relaxing and taking a deep breath (photo by iStock)
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio May 2024

Clean up your indoor air quality with these pointers, and learn the best way to keep an eye on a health number that often gets overlooked. 

Clearing the Air
Your indoor air quality could be triggering allergies and other issues. Clean up with these purifying pointers.

Once the house is clean, you can finally relax and take a breather. But what if that air is not as clean as the rest of the home? Aside from pollen entering the home, there are also dust mites and the potential for mold and mildew. These respiratory hazards, along with pet dander and fumes from household cleansers, can impact your health, and you may not even sense their presence.

“Indoor air quality is very important, and it directly affects our health,” says Dr. Ahmed Elisa, an allergist at ProMedica Physicians Allergy and Immunology in Perrysburg.

Americans spend an average of 90% of time indoors, and indoor pollutant levels are often two to five times higher than outdoor exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Consider these clean-air tips to bring relief this season.

Dehumidify and Purify. Maintain a household humidity of 30 to 50 percent. “The higher the humidity, the more issues you will have,” Elisa says, pointing to dust mites and mold. HEPA filters designed for HVAC systems are beneficial but costly. An alternative is to place air purifiers in bedrooms.

Maintain HVAC Filters. Replace HVAC filters every three months. “[It] filters out large particles, while the HEPA filters in individual rooms help take care of smaller particulates,” Elisa says. He also advises vacuuming floors regularly to minimize allergens like dust mites, the most common year-round allergy and asthma trigger.

Attack Mold. Bathrooms and basements are notorious for harboring mold. “Using bleach is simple and can help,” Elisa says. “If it’s a bigger issue, get a specialist to take care of mold.” Ventilating shower, laundry and cooking areas can also curb humidity levels that cause mold growth. 


Pressure’s On
Know your numbers and follow these prevention basics that help keep blood pressure in check.

It often creeps up gradually and can impact multiple organs. By the time high blood pressure displays warning signs, the effects are in full swing, says Dr. John Szawaluk, medical director of the hypertension clinic at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.

“We know that uncontrolled hypertension leads to poor outcomes on multiple fronts, and it’s the leading cause of heart attack, kidney failure, stroke and heart failure,” he explains.

According to 2023 World Health Organization statistics, an estimated 46% of adults living with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition, and less than half of adults are diagnosed and treated.

Hypertension is defined as blood pressure measuring 130/80 or more. The ideal number is 120/80. Risk factors include older age, family history, obesity, lack of physical activity, a high-salt diet and alcohol and tobacco use. Very high blood pressure can cause headaches, blurred vision, chest pain and vision changes.

The only way to know your blood pressure is to get it checked or monitor it at home, and Szawaluk says it is never too early to do so.

“Monitoring begins during pediatric check-ups, and hypertension is becoming more common in younger people,” he says.

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, so we asked Szawaluk his advice for monitoring this important health number.

Less Salt, More Movement. “We’re always trying to reach for the Holy Grail to fix hypertension, but it really goes back to the basic nuts and bolts,” Szawaluk says. A low-sodium diet that limits salt and has adequate potassium can help reduce blood pressure in some people. Also, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. “Walking is enough,” Szawaluk says. “Increased aerobic activity is what we’re looking for.”

Watch Your Numbers. If your blood pressure trends high, home monitoring is critical, Szawaluk says. He recommends buying a monitor and checking your blood pressure at the same time each day. Maintaining a blood-pressure journal can inform potential treatment with medications. The American Heart Association recommends purchasing measurement cuffs that wrap around the upper arm versus finger or wrist devices.

Gather an Accurate Reading. Before taking your blood pressure, use the restroom and sit quietly for five minutes. Make sure your back is supported, feet are flat on the floor and the  arm for the reading is level with your heart. Do not take the measurement over clothes and do not talk during the reading. “When you know your numbers, if you are borderline, you can discuss with your doctor where to go from there,” Szawaluk says.