This is how air pollution may up cardiovascular disease risk

Tiny particles of air pollution - called fine particulate matter - can have a range of effects on health. Image courtesy: IANS

New York: Researchers have identified that fine particulate matter has a detrimental impact on cardiovascular health by activating the production of inflammatory cells in the bone marrow, ultimately leading to inflammation of the arteries.

The study indicates that tiny particles of air pollution - called fine particulate matter - can have a range of effects on health, and exposure to high levels is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

"The pathway linking air pollution exposure to cardiovascular events through higher bone marrow activity and arterial inflammation accounted for 29 per cent of the relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular disease events," said researcher Shady Abohashem from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US.

"These findings implicate air pollution exposure as an underrecognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease and suggest therapeutic targets beyond pollution mitigation to lessen the cardiovascular impact of air pollution exposure," Abohashem added.

For the study, published in the European Heart Journal, the researchers included 503 patients without cardiovascular disease or cancer who had undergone imaging tests at MGH for various medical reasons.

The researchers estimated participants' annual average fine particulate matter levels using air quality monitors located closest to each participant's residential address.

Over a median follow-up of 4.1 years, 40 individuals experienced major cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, with the highest risk seen in participants with higher levels of fine particulate matter at their home address.

Their risk was elevated even after accounting for cardiovascular risk factors, socioeconomic factors, and other key confounders, the researchers said.

Imaging tests assessing the state of internal organs and tissues showed that these participants also had higher bone marrow activity, indicating a heightened production of inflammatory cells (a process called leukopoiesis), and elevated inflammation of the arteries.

Additional analyses revealed that leukopoiesis in response to air pollution exposure is a trigger that causes arterial inflammation.

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