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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid