Washington: Long term exposure to air pollution may cause heart attacks and strokes by speeding up atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries", according to a study by US researchers.The researchers, led by Sara Adar, John Searle Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Joel Kaufman, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and Medicine, University of Washington, found that higher concentrations of fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) were linked to a faster thickening of the inner two layers of the common carotid artery, an important blood vessel that provides blood to the head, neck, and brain. They also found that reductions of fine particulate air pollution over time were linked to slower progression of the blood vessel thickness. The thickness of this blood vessel is an indicator of how much atherosclerosis is present in the arteries throughout the body, even among people with no obvious 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," Adar said.The researchers reached these conclusions by following 5362 people aged between 45 to 84 years old from six U.S. metropolitan areas as part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution (MESA Air). The researchers were able to link air pollution levels estimated at each person`s house with two ultrasound measurements of the blood vessels, separated by about three years. All participants in their study were without known heart disease.
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