Posted by Neha Jindal on February 15, 2010

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, America have discovered that atmospheric pollution is the main culprit behind heart diseases, since the artery walls coagulate due to assembling of fatty particles inhaled from air.

Howard N. Hodis, director, USC Atherosclerosis Research Unit said, “The fact that we can detect progression of atherosclerosis in relation to ambient air pollution above and beyond other well-established risk factors indicates that environmental factors may play a larger role in the risk of cardiovascular disease than previously suspected.”

Co-author of the study, Michael Jerrett, UC Berkeley said, “By controlling air pollution from traffic, we may see much larger benefits to public health than we previously thought.”

1,483 people studied
The research was conducted on 1,483 people, residing within 100 meters or 328 feet of Los Angeles expressway.

To measure atherosclerosis or common carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT), researchers used the ultrasound technique, and evaluated CIMT every six months for three subsequent years.

Researchers then, compared the overall results of blockage in artery walls with levels of outdoor particles, in this case, the harmful dust emitted from pipes from subjects’ residences.

The study revealed that the thickness of the subjects’ artery walls sped up every 12 months by 5.5 micrometers-- one-twentieth the thickness of a human hair.

This progression was two times more than the average swelling in the arteries, researchers established.

The team also found that nearly 1.5 million people lived within 300 meters of the highways in Los Angeles.

Lead researcher, Nino Kuenzil, vice director, Swiss Tropical and Public Institute, a part of USC’s Keck School of Medicine said, “Until now, no study has ever investigated whether the slow but chronic process of the development of atherosclerosis would be effected by ambient air pollution.”

“The findings support emerging evidence that high-traffic corridors are unhealthy residential locations,” concluded the researchers.

Details of the study appear in the Journal PLoS One.

About atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis or Arteriosclerotic Vascular Disease (ASVD) can originate during puberty, and is initiated in most chief arteries in the human body. Being asymptomatic, ASVD is difficult to detect by any diagnostic means.

Yet, according to the U.S. 2004 data, the initial symptom of the disease is a heart attack, or in severe cases, sudden cardiac death.

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