Air Pollution Shown to Increase Heart Disease Risk
Massey, Patrick B., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Patrick B. Massey, M.D.
Now we may be able to add air pollution to the list of factors of modern life that increase heart disease risk.
For some time, we have known that air pollution can make asthma and other lung diseases, like emphysema, worse. The annual medical cost of air pollution's impact on these diseases is measured in the tens of millions of dollars.
What we are now discovering is that air pollution may also accelerate the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Several medical studies have suggested a link between air pollution and heart disease in people who are already at risk because of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, the mechanism by which pollution increased the risk of heart disease was unknown - until now.
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine and the University of Michigan explored the effects of air pollution and diet on a specific strain of mouse. They discovered that even small amounts of air pollution, in conjunction with a high-fat diet, led to a significantly faster build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries. The build-up of plaque is directly related to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death.
The researchers discovered that pollution, along with a high-fat diet, also increased vasoconstriction (spasm of the arteries), decreasing blood flow to the heart and brain. Inflammation also plays an important role in the production of plaque, and air pollution amplified the inflammatory response by 2. …