Boise State Assistant Professor Cynthia Curl recently co-published a study in The Lancet that demonstrates a link between long-term exposure to air pollution and cardiovascular disease due to calcium buildup in the coronary artery or thickened carotid artery walls.
The study, titled “Association between Air Pollution and
Coronary Artery Calcification within Six Metropolitan Areas in the USA (the
Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution): a longitudinal cohort
study,” examined the coronary effects of exposure to air
pollution over long periods of time. It focused on this to determine if air pollution exposure
could be responsible for the precursors of heart disease.
The study measured the progression of two factors: coronary
artery calcium and the thickness between the innermost two layers of the wall
of the carotid artery. Factors like age, sex, ethnicity,
socioeconomic characteristics, cardiovascular risk factors, and site and CT
scanner technology were all taken into consideration.
In conclusion, the study found that traffic-related air pollution -- in ranges
consistent with global metropolitan areas -- is related to progression in coronary
calcification and the acceleration of atherosclerosis, supporting international
efforts to reduce pollution.
Curl's findings place the average annual increase of
coronary calcium at 24 Agatston units, and the increase of intima-media thickness at 12 micrometers per year.
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