air-pollution
Heart Health
High blood pressure / hypertension

High Blood Pressure Linked to Some Air Pollutants

High blood pressure has been linked to both short- and long-term exposure to some air pollutants commonly associated with coal burning, vehicle exhaust, airborne dust and dirt, according to results published by the American Heart Association.

The conclusions were published in the AHA’s journal Hypertension. The findings are especially significant because high blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

“In our analysis of 17 previously-published studies we discovered a significant risk of developing high blood pressure due to exposure to air pollution,” said Tao Liu, Ph.D., lead study author and deputy director and epidemiologist of the environmental health division at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China. “People should limit their exposure on days with higher air pollution levels, especially for those with high blood pressure, even very short-term exposure can aggravate their conditions.”

Researchers performed a meta-analysis of available published studies in the world assessing the health effects of all air pollution on hypertension risk. Meta-analyses combine results from previous studies to estimate the overall effect of a particular variable on a result. In the first study to simultaneously estimate the effects of short-term and long-term exposure to air pollutants on hypertension by meta-analysis, researchers focused on these air pollutants:

Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuel;

Nitrogen oxide (NOx), which comes from fossil fuels burned at power plants and vehicle exhaust;

Particulate matter (PM) are particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, smoke and liquid droplets. (PM 2.5 is smaller than a speck of dust, and the most common and hazardous type of air pollution. PM10 includes both PM2.5 and PM2.5-10).

The meta-analysis found high blood pressure was significantly associated with:

short-term exposure to SO2, PM2.5 and PM10; and

long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is produced from combustion, and PM10.

For the portion of the study that assessed short-term effects of ozone and carbon monoxide exposure, no significant associations were found. Researchers said ozone and carbon monoxide’s links to high blood pressure requires further study.

Of the 5,687 air pollution studies initially identified, 17 were the focus of this – which involves more than 108,000 hypertension patients and 220,000 non-hypertensive controls. High blood pressure was defined as systolic blood pressure more than 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure over 90 mm Hg or by antihypertensive drug use. Air pollution exposure was assessed by averaging data from nearest air pollution monitoring stations, or using complex dispersion models or land use regression models.

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