News / Health

Air Pollution Linked to Artery Hardening, Increased Stroke Risk

Jessica Berman
U.S. researchers say urban dwellers exposed to the highest levels of fine particulate air pollution had faster hardening of the arteries, putting them at increased risk of stroke, compared to people in less polluted sections of the same city.  The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that residing in polluted urban areas is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a leading cause of death around the world.  It can cause stroke or death when a blood clot or piece of hardened plaque inside a blocked coronary artery breaks off and travels to the brain, cutting off blood flow.

To investigate the role of air pollution in the development of atherosclerosis, researchers followed a group of almost 5,400 adults in six metropolitan areas.  None of the participants was known to have heart disease.  They were part of a larger U.S. study called the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution, or MESA Air.

Between 2000 and 2005, researchers conducted two non-invasive ultrasound examinations on each participant, at intervals of three years, to measure the thickness of the subjects' carotid artery walls.  The carotid carries blood to the head, neck and brain.  Thickening of an arterial wall is a good indicator of atherosclerosis throughout the body, even in patients with no obvious symptoms of heart disease.

Analyzing the ultrasound results, researchers found a slight, but significant increase in the thickening of carotid artery walls among individuals who resided in high pollution areas compared to those in less polluted urban centers.  According to lead researcher Sara Adar, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, their findings corroborated earlier studies of the group.

“Based on another study that was done in the same cohort [group] of people, they found that the amount of change that we saw for living in a high-pollution neighborhood versus living in a low pollution neighborhood would correspond to about a  two percent increased risk of stroke," said Adar.

Fine particulate air pollution, the kind of black soot belched out by smoke stacks and the tailpipes of buses in many urban areas around the world, is widely believed to cause inflammation and oxidative stress that can contribute to heart disease.

Adar says people already are encouraged to stay indoors on days when pollution is particularly high.  But she says doctors should make a point of discussing the hazards of air pollution with their patients:

“So, just as they might ask somebody 'Do you smoke?' or think about if someone is obese,  [the question of] how long someone has lived in a highly polluted environment might factor into a physician’s notion of whether or not somebody is at high or low risk for cardiovascular disease or heart disease," she said.

An article linking air pollution to accelerated hardening of the arteries is published in the journal PLoS Medicine.  

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs