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Pollution ups
women's risk of heart disease

Pollution ups
women's risk of heart disease

Women who live in areas of high air pollution are at a greater risk of developing and dying from heart disease, reports a study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at the University of Washington studied more than 65,000 women, age 50 to 79, living in 36 U.S. cities. They found that each 10-unit increase in fine particulate matter (tiny airborne particles of soot or dust that create urban haze, which come from vehicle exhaust, coal-fired power plants, industrial sources, and wood-burning fireplaces) was linked to a 76% increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, after taking into account known risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking.

"Our findings show that both what city a woman lived in, and where she lived in that city, affected her exposure level and her disease risk," said Kristin Miller, primary author of the study and a doctoral student in epidemiology at UW, in a press release.

UW researchers studied women who did not initially have cardiovascular disease; they followed up with them for up to nine years to determine who would have a heart attack, stroke, or coronary bypass surgery, or died from cardiovascular causes.

Scientists are unsure how pollution leads to cardiovascular disease, but some think soot particles are causing the arteries to harden, a precursor of heart disease.

"More than one out of three deaths in the United States are due to cardiovascular disease--it's the leading cause of death," Miller said. "If the annual average concentration of fine particulate air pollution can be reduced, it would potentially translate on a national scale to the prevention or delay of thousands and thousands of heart attacks, strokes, and bypass surgeries, not to mention fewer early deaths." (The Advocate)

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