Health Care

How pollution cancels cardiovascular benefits

How pollution cancels cardiovascular benefits

Previous BHF research has shown that long-term exposure to air pollution leads to inflammation in the blood vessels, including those supplying the heart, and promotes the build-up of fatty plaques in the linings of blood vessels, which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers estimated average monthly concentrations of traffic-related pollutants by looking at the mother's home address at the time of birth. Nevertheless, our studies found that even these relatively low levels were associated with increased risk of adverse adult lung health outcomes such as asthma and poor lung function.

"Combined with evidence from other recent studies, our findings underscore that we can't really tolerate the levels of air pollution that we now find on our busy streets", said Fan Chung, professor of respiratory medicine and head of experimental studies medicine at Imperial College's National Heart and Lung Institute.

"Babies born with low birth weight or who are small for their gestational age, are at increased risk of dying within their first month, as well as diseases in later life, such as cardiovascular disease. That should allow everyone to be able to enjoy the health benefits of physical activity in any urban environment".

The project was also supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department of Health.

New UK research has found that exposure to air pollution on busy urban streets can cancel out the beneficial effects of exercise in older adults. Two-thirds of the volunteers had been diagnosed with either heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), while the others were healthy (no pre-existing heart or lung condition).

Participants were randomly assigned to spend two hours walking along the western end of London's Oxford Street, an area where traffic is restricted to diesel-powered buses and cabs; or through a traffic-free area of the city's Hyde Park.

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Air pollution levels were monitored before and during their walk, and each participant's lung capacity and arterial stiffness was measured before and after.

A study has shown that walking around heavily polluted areas could reduce the positive impacts of exercise. Data analysis was carried out at the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London and Kings College London, and the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey.

These included measurements of blood pressure, lung capacity, blood flow and stiffness of the arteries. Walking in Hyde Park reduced arterial stiffness by a maximum of more than 24 percent in the healthy and COPD volunteers and by more than 19 percent in the patients with heart disease.

The authors add that it is possible that stress could account for some of the physiological differences seen between the two settings, with the increased noise and activity of Oxford Street having an effect.

'For people living in the inner city it may be hard to find areas where they can walk, away from pollution ... we really need to reduce pollution by controlling traffic'.

"For many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, the only exercise they very often can do is walk", said Kian Fan Chung, the study's senior author and a professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, in a released statement.

Simon Gillespie, of the British Heart Foundation which funded the study, said: 'Telling joggers to avoid polluted streets is not a solution ...