Diabetic women exposed to air pollution are more at risk of heart disease

by Barbara Hewitt on November 26, 2015

Women with diabetes who are exposed to air pollution for long periods may have a much higher risk for heart disease, according to a long term study in the United States.

Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, studied 114,537 women with an average age 64 who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study.

Air Pollution“Although studies have shown that people with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to the cardiovascular effects of acute exposures to air pollution, our study is one of the first to demonstrate high risks of cardiovascular disease among individuals with diabetes with long term exposures to particulate matter,” said lead study author, assistant professor Jaime Hart.

During the follow up in 1989 to 2006, researchers recorded 6,767 incidences of cardiovascular disease, 3,878 of coronary heart disease and 3,295 strokes. They calculated the impacts of three different sizes of particulate matter (PM) air pollution.

Fine particulate pollutant smaller than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre in diameter (PM2.5), which is much smaller than a speck of dust, 1/30th diameter of a human hair and not visible to the human eye, is created from combustion from cars, power plants, etc. Particulate pollutant larger than PM2.5 but smaller than PM10 (PM2.5-10) is created from windblown dust, crushing and grinding and road dust. Particulate pollutant PM10 includes both PM2.5 and PM2.5-10.

While all women had small increased risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with more air pollution exposure, the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke among women with diabetes was higher.

For each 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the increase was 44% for CVD and 66% for strokes for the smallest size pollution, 17% for CVD and 18% for strokes for road dust-type larger size pollution and 19% for CVD and 23% for strokes for exposure to both sizes of pollution.

Researchers also found higher effects of air pollution among women aged 70 and older, obese women and women who lived in the northeast or south of the United States.

“It is important to identify these subgroups, so that pollution standards can be developed that protect them,” Hart said.

He pointed out that smoking status and family history didn’t consistently modify the association between particulate matter and cardiovascular disease, and risks were most elevated with exposures in the previous 12 months.

He also pointed out that the study was limited in that the participants were mostly white women of middle and upper socio economic status.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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