According to a recently published study, diabetes increases heart disease risk in women whom are exposed to air pollution. The findings, released by the American Heart Association serve as a warning that complications related to diabetes pose a very real danger to the well-being of diabetic patients and therefore should never be underestimated.
A research team led by Jaime E. Hart, Sc.D assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts made the connection.
The researchers studied 114,537 women (average age 64) who were participating in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS). During a 17 year follow-up, Hart et al noted incidences of cardiovascular disease (6,767), coronary heart disease (3,878) and strokes (3,295) or 12.1 % of the predominately white, middle to upper socioeconomic NHS participants.
The team found that exposure to air pollution was associated with increased heart disease risk in women with diabetes. In fact, for each 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the higher the risk for diabetic women as shown by the following statistics:
- 44 percent for CVD (66 percent for stroke) for smallest size pollution
- 17 percent for CVD (18 percent for stroke) for road dust-type larger size pollution
- 19 percent for CVD (23 percent for stroke) for exposure to both sizes of pollution
Hart et al found that the risk increased with age and region. More specifically, women 70 and older, obese women and women who lived in the northeast or south experienced higher effects from air pollution.
The researchers looked at three types of air pollution, calculating the impact of each.
Combustion from cars, power plants and so forth produce the finest particulate pollutants; these particles are smaller than a speck of dust. Measuring at 2.5 thousandths of a millimeter in diameter (PM2.5), these pollutants are 1/30th diameter of a human hair and invisible to the human eye.
Dust from wind, crushing and grinding produce particulate pollutant larger than PM2.5 but smaller than PM10 (PM2.5-10). Particulate pollutant PM10 includes both PM2.5 and PM2.5-10.
It's important to also note that all participants whom were exposed to air pollution experienced slightly increased risk for heart disease.
Interestingly, the team said that family history or history of smoking made little impact on the association between pollution, stroke and heart disease, and risks were most elevated with exposures in the previous 12 months.
“Although studies have shown that people with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to the cardiovascular effects of acute exposures to air pollution, our study is one of the first to demonstrate high risks of cardiovascular disease among individuals with diabetes with long-term exposures to particulate matter,” said Dr. Hart.
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