Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Heart at risk from exposure to environmental pollution

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Environmental toxins build up in the body
over time, scientists say
Environmental pollutants like PCBs, dioxin and pesticides have been linked to cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and heart attack.

Now you can add the increased risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, to that list.

In the latest of several environmental studies, researchers in Sweden tested more than 1,000 study participants for 23 environmental toxins.

Many of these toxins have been banned for some time, but because they have such a long half life, they are still a major factor in people’s exposure.

The study concentrated on people age 70 or older, since the toxins are stored in the body at increasingly higher levels over time.

The researcher compared the levels of environmental exposure to the health of their arteries, determined by the amount of plaque build-up in the carotid artery.

The more plaque there is, the narrower the arteries get and will reduce blood flow to the heart; if an area of plaque ruptures, it blocks the blood flow completely and can cause a heart attack.

Even after controlling for other cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers found a strong link between seven environmental pollutants and increased plaque build-up in the carotid artery.

Heart attack and stroke are leading causes of death in industrialized countries, and they are both associated with atherosclerosis, so studying the effects of environmental pollutants may be beneficial for the public health, the researchers said.

Source: TIME Healthland

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