BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Air pollution is harmful to all of us, regardless of the gender, but a new study indicates that women have it worse. Being exposed for a long time to dust and car exhaust is associated with an elevated risk of heart disease in women with diabetes.
Prior research had already linked exposure to air pollution on shorter periods with higher rates of heart disease in the general population, but scientists found that women with diabetes are particularly vulnerable.
Senior author Jaime Hart, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said the study was uniquely tailored to observe the ways people respond to different levels of air pollution. The new study falls in agreement with the sturdy literature that had already covered the short-term effects of air pollution on those with diabetes.
The study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association accounts for 17 years of follow-up. Diabetes currently affects 29 million people in the United States alone, and stroke or heart disease complications kill roughly 65 percent of the diabetes patients, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Hart’s team monitored more than 114,000 women with an average age of 64. The participants were from the Nurses’ Health Study, a nationwide study initiated in 1976. The researchers measured the incidence of heart disease in connection with exposure to three different types of so-called “particulate matter” in air pollution.
Invisible to the human eye, some of these “particulates” are finer than a speck of dust, originating in power plants and car combustion. Some other particulates are larger, such as road dust, windblown dust, or ground matter. The third level of particulates is a mix of the first two.
After 17 years of follow-up, extended exposure to the smallest air pollutant particulates translated in a 44 percent raise in heart disease and 66 percent raise in stroke among women with diabetes. According to the study, the smaller the particulate matter, the deeper it can travel into the person’s lungs, creating inflammation.
Hart, also an assistant professor in the department of environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, pointed out how difficult is to get them out of the system, given that evidence suggests the smallest particulates can even cross into the bloodstream, leading to potential blood vessel blockage.
Most major cities provide online day-to-day data on air pollution levels, which people should check when they make decisions about indoor or outdoor activities. You’d probably want to stay in of air pollution is particularly high, especially if you have diabetes.
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