Gas prices in Palo Alto are now $4 per gallon or more. This may hurt our pocketbooks but it helps our health. Why? Because one hidden health benefit is that the higher gas prices climb, the more likely people may be to park their guzzler and start riding a bike, walking or scootering to school and work.
We’re lucky in Palo Alto because it can be easy to get to many of the places we’d typically drive to without using a car. Our local Spare the Air program (an effort of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District) would certainly like to see that. The group educates people about air pollution and encourages us to change certain lifestyle behaviors to improve air quality here in the Bay Area—like walking or biking in lieu of driving.
Doctors tell us that our respiratory health benefits with fewer cars on the road, too. With fewer cars on the road, we can all breathe easier. Air pollution plays a well-documented role in asthma attacks, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency. The group reports that nearly 12 percent of Californians have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma accounts for more than 17 million doctor office visits and nearly 2 million emergency department visits every year.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways, which are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. This causes symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing.
Today, there are lots of health and education resources available for people of all ages who live with asthma. That’s something we can all be happy about—and it might even help us breathe a little easier the next time we park the car.
Try this online screening assessment from American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology.