A group of researchers has linked air pollution exposure to some cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack and stroke.
The study examined more than 5,300 individuals, ages 45-84, from six U.S. metropolitan areas to determine whether there is an association between long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution and thickening of the inner two layers of the common carotid artery — an important blood vessel that supplies blood to the head, neck and brain.
After considering other factors, such as smoking, it was found that long-term exposure to air pollution speeds up the hardening of the arteries, even among people who did not have symptoms of heart disease.
“Our findings help us to understand how it is that exposures to air pollution may cause the increases in heart attacks and strokes observed by other studies,” Sara Adar, one of the study’s lead authors and John Searle Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said in a news release.
Fine particulate air pollution is mainly produced by motor vehicles, power plants, and other combustion sources.
“Linking these findings with other results from the same population suggests that persons living in a more polluted part of town may have a 2 percent higher risk of stroke as compared to people in a less polluted part of the same metropolitan area,” Adar explained.
The group’s findings were published on April 23 in the online edition of PLOS Medicine.