(Health Secrets) Do you need lower blood pressure? Exposure to city center air pollution can raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study presented to the American Thoracic Society. While the impact of city pollution on respiratory diseases has previously been identified, this is the first study to link air pollution caused by traffic and industry to high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease.
What does the study show?
The research used data from an ongoing German population study, known as the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, which looks at the development of heart disease. The impact of air pollution on blood pressure was examined for 5000 people over a three year span.
Background concentrations of air pollution over a year were measured and recorded, and the blood pressure of the subjects was regularly checked. Other factors that may influence blood pressure such as age, weight, gender and smoking were taken into account.
The results showed that average arterial blood pressure increased when the subject was exposed to fine particulate matter over a long period. Fine particulate matter tends to come from traffic, heating, industrial processes and power plants. These increases in blood pressure where seen to affect women more than men.
Increases in blood pressure caused by city center pollution may lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which may result in a heart attack or stroke.
Dr Hoffman, who led the research team at the University of Dusiburg-Essen said “This finding points out that air pollution does not only trigger life-threatening events like heart attacks and strokes, but that it may also influence the underlying processes, which lead to chronic cardiovascular diseases.”
The next steps
The research team has called for people to lower blood pressure by limiting exposure to air pollution caused by traffic, industry, heating and power plants for people living in the city. In the meantime, the scientists are undertaking further research to establish whether the onset of atherosclerosis, caused by raised blood pressure, is accelerated by exposure to air pollution.
Other health risks of polluted city air
Many people love the convenience of living in the city. Being close to work, along with a wide range of shops, bars and restaurants can make life easier and more fun, but what impact does it have on our health? Along with raising our blood pressure, city center air pollution can have the following effects:
- Air pollution reduces life expectancy, according to a European Commission report back in 2005. While the average reduction seems low at 9 months, the reduction for some individuals could be much higher.
- Air pollution is a direct cause of sick days, according to the same study, which showed that an average of half a day per person was taken off work due to air pollution related illness.
- Air pollution can cause inflammation, particularly in lung tissue resulting in respiratory problems. It has been liked with an increase in deaths from pneumonia.
- Air pollution can damage the lungs of an unborn baby in the womb when it is absorbed into the blood stream of the mother.
- Air pollution raises blood clotting levels and thickens blood, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
- Air pollution has been linked to a reduction in fertility and in the success of in vitro fertilization treatment.
Ready to escape to the country and get lower blood pressure?
Living in the countryside may not be as convenient as your city center pad, but breathing clean air can have a positive impact on your health. There may be other advantages too, such as peace and quiet, lower house prices, the sense of neighborliness you get from living in a small community, space to move and exercise, and lower crime rates. Moving out of the city can improve your lifestyle as well as your general health.