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article imageAir pollution impairs function of blood vessels in the lungs

By Karen Graham     Dec 10, 2016 in Health
With so many major cities plagued with choking air pollution recently, a new European study on how air pollution impairs the blood vessels in the lungs, possibly leading to decompensated heart failure, seems to be very timely.
The study, involving over 16,000 patients was presented on Friday at the EuroEcho-Imaging 2016 annual meeting of the EACVI, held in Leipzig, Germany from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10, 2016.
Lead author, Dr. Jean-Francois Argacha, a cardiologist at the University Hospital (UZ) in Brussels, Belgium, was quoted by Science News Line as saying, "This is the first human study to report an influence of air pollution on pulmonary vascular function. This is a major public health issue for people living in polluted urban areas where exercise could damage the lungs and potentially lead to decompensated heart failure."
The study adds the necessity of promoting a cleaner and safer environment right up there with controlling risk factors like smoking and high cholesterol in reducing cardiovascular disease. We already know that air pollution exacerbates pre-existing lung diseases such as asthma and COPD.
Air pollution consists of particulate matter (PM) of different sizes and gasses like nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and others. And as we breathe these PMs into our lungs, the first vascular bed they land on is the pulmonary circulation, yet few studies have actually been done on their impact.
The study examined the effect of air pollution on pulmonary hemodynamics on a broad population and on individuals between 2009 and 2013. Transthoracic echocardiography including an evaluation of pulmonary pressure was conducted on 16,295 people, with the results being correlated with average air pollution in Brussels on the same day and on the last five and 10 days.
The study concluded that "Air pollution was associated with increased pulmonary vascular tone which makes it more difficult for blood to flow to the lungs. Longer exposure to air pollution seems necessary to impair right ventricular systolic function. Patients with obstructive sleep apnoea were at greater risk."
The study also reinforces the link between air pollution and epidemiological research into the effects of pollution on the cardiovascular system. The research suggests that when pollution levels are high, we should refrain from strenuous outdoor exercise. The study also notes that there is no strong evidence on the effectiveness of face masks to eliminate or reduce particulate exposure.
More about Air pollution, Blood vessels, echoimaging, impaired function, decompensated heart failure
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