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3 Ways Living in the City Harms Your Health

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

Although I became a “city girl” just under a year ago, I had already fallen in love with the urban lifestyle. Unfortunately, studies show living in cities can wreak havoc on several areas of our health, impacting us from the outside to the inside.

Health havoc 1: effect on skin

In an article by stylelist.com, New York dermatologists Dr. Eric S. Scweiger and Dr. David E. Bank explained how living in urban areas dulls skin, accelerates wrinkle production and causes pigmentation spots on our complexions.

One of the reasons our skin suffers in cities includes the amount of sun exposure we receive. “We’re walking everywhere, and we’re constantly being exposed to the sun,” Schweiger said. This exposure can cause premature wrinkles, especially because we’re out and about around lunch hour.

Pollution in cities also leaves its mark on our skin, literally. “Think about all the car pollution, construction zone soot and other allergens and dirt that gets kicked up by subways, people and cars daily.” Schweiger said. With pollution layering onto the skin, city slickers need intensive cleaning to unclog pores and keep their faces fresh.

Health havoc 2: effect on blood pressure

Pollution causes problems for more than just the skin. The bad air quality in cities also has a negative effect on blood pressure, according to an article by sciencedaily.com.

Researchers involved in the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, a population-based study of about 5,000 people focusing on the development of heart disease, collected data and analyzed the link between air pollution and blood pressure in the years 2000 through 2003.

“Our results show that living in areas with higher levels of particle air pollution is associated with higher blood pressure,” Barbara Hoffman, M.D., M.P.H, said in the article.

Hoffman also explained raised blood pressure increases the risk for atherosclerosis, a condition that hardens the arteries and leads to heart attacks and strokes. “Blood pressure increases (found in the study) were stronger in women than in men,” Hoffman added.

Health havoc 3: effect on stress levels

An article by msnbc.com revealed the results of a study by scientists at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, which indicated people living in the stressful environments of big cities are more likely to “crack” under pressure.

The researchers put brain scanners on 32 volunteers and instructed them to solve difficult math problems. When the volunteers wrote down incorrect answers, the researchers openly criticized them to demean their self-esteem and cause stress levels to rise.

According to the article, “In people from the largest cities, researchers found that the amygdala—the piece of the brain that processes emotions—lit up with activity when the researchers chastised them.”

Although the researchers could not tell exactly why this occurred, they reasoned that it was because of previous exposure to stress by other humans, which caused people from urban areas to have stronger responses to criticism.

For those of us who love our cities and wish to make the best out of the urban lifestyle, there are several steps we can take to help counteract the negative effects of city living. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables to nourish the body with essential vitamins and maintain a routine of deep cleaning the skin morning and night.





Reviewed July 7, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton

Kate Kunkel is a journalism student looking to minor in nutrition at Arizona State University. She currently interns for EmpowHER and has a passion for healthy eating and fitness.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.