Air Impact to Health – What can particles do to your health?
Air Pollution can reduce Cardiovascular Function
A new Harvard study shows that soot can elevate blood pressure in older men while another USC study shows that living near a freeway can double the rate of arterial thickening, the kind which leads to heart attack and stroke. Both studies show that exposure to air pollution is linked with higher rates of cardiovascular issues. If you're concerned about cardiovascular health, you should be reducing your exposure to air pollution as much as possible. The best way to do this is to improve your indoor air quality with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifier.
Harvard Study Findings
The Harvard study measured the blood pressure of 800 older Massachusetts men, three separate times. The men were all around 72 and were participating in a long-term Veterans Affairs study. Researchers correlated the blood pressure measurements with air samples that measured black carbon concentrations on seven days leading up to the blood pressure measurements. They found that an increase of 0.4 microgram per cubic meter of air was related to an increase of 3 millimeters of mercury for systolic pressure and 2.25 mmHg for diastolic pressure.
They also studied the men's genetic code, looking for specific changes in DNA sequences that may be correlated with a response to black carbon levels. Previous studies have identified certain micro RNA genes that regulate the expression of other genes. They found correlations between certain of these genes and a lowered blood-pressure response to the level of soot in the air. But genes are very complicated and may control several things, so much more study is needed. The goal, according to researcher Elissa Wilker, is to better characterize the pathways that are responsible for susceptibility to pollution. If a certain gene could be linked to higher sensitivity to certain pollutants, people could be screened for that gene and could adjust their exposure to certain pollutants. For example, if your blood pressure is more sensitive to soot, you would know not to live along a major roadway or work in proximity to one.
USC Study Findings
Another study at the University of Southern California highlights how exposure to air pollution thickens the artery walls more quickly, potentially leading to more cardiovascular disease. That study is the very first one to link outdoor air pollution with the progression of arterial thickening in humans. The study found that people who lived within 100 meters of a Los Angeles freeway had arterial wall thickening twice the rate of those that lived further away. It showed that environmental factors may play a much larger role in heart disease than was previously thought. Before, doctors could only counsel people to change their diet and increase exercise as a means of reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke. But given this new research, improving air quality may also be a way of reducing one's risk.