Long-term exposure to traffic increases risk of heart disease


Long-term exposure to traffic increases risk of heart disease

A new medical study has found that long-term exposure to fine particle matter air pollution that is partly derived from car emissions is associated with Atherosclerosis - or the thickening of artery walls.

Dr Hagen Kalsch from the West-German Heart Centre in Essen, Germany, conducted the study to determine whether increased heart risks were down to noise, particle pollution, or both.

The study involved 4,814 participants with an average age of 60 years, all living in differing proximity to major roads.

Evidence strongly suggested that those who lived closer to busy roads were more likely to suffer with heart disease in later life. For every increase in particle volume up to 2.4 micrometers, the degree of heart calcification increased by 20.7% and for every 100-metre increase in proximity to heavy traffic it rose by 10%.

Commenting on the results, Dr Kalsch confirms that long-term exposure to fine air pollution and to road traffic noise are both independently associated with the risk of heart disease.

Speaking to medicalexpress.com, Dr Kalsch said: "These two major types of traffic emissions help explain the observed associations between living close to high traffic and subclinical Atherosclerosis."

He added: "The considerable size of the associations underscores the importance of long-term exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise as risk factors for Atherosclerosis."

The study also revealed that both traffic and noise pollution cause an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which feeds into the complex mechanisms regulating blood pressure, blood lipids, glucose level, clotting and viscosity.

In plain English, if you live near a busy road, you might want to invest in some earplugs and a gas mask.