December 01, 2015
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Air pollution increases CVD risk in women with diabetes

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Women with diabetes exposed to long-term traffic pollution have a 44% increased risk for cardiovascular disease and a 66% increased risk for stroke, according to research in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Although studies have shown that people with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to the [CV] effects of acute exposures to air pollution, our study is one of the first to demonstrate high risks of [CVD] among individuals with diabetes with long-term exposures to particulate matter," Jaime E. Hart, ScD, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release.

Jaime Hart

Jaime E. Hart

Hart and colleagues analyzed data from 114,537 women (mean age, 64 years; 94% white; 44% never smokers) participating in the Nurses' Health Study. Researchers recorded incidences of CVD (n = 6,767), coronary heart disease (n = 3,878) and strokes (n = 3,295) between 1989 and 2006.

Using monthly average models monitoring particulate data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, researchers then calculated the effect of fine particulate pollutant less than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5), particulate pollutant more than PM2.5 but less than PM10 (PM2.5-10), and a combination of both PM2.5 and PM2.5-10 (PM10).

Researchers found that all women had a small increased risk for CVD with more air pollution exposure, but the risk was not statistically significant. However, the risk was much greater among women with diabetes.

For each 10 µg/m3 of air, women with diabetes had a 44% increased risk for CVD and 66% increased risk for stroke for PM2.5; a 17% risk for CVD and 18% for stroke for PM 2.5-10m and a 19% increase in risk for CVD and 23% risk for stroke for exposure to both sizes of pollution.

Researchers also found higher effects of air pollution among women aged at least 70 years, women with obesity and women who lived in the Northeast or South; smoking status and family history did not consistently modify the associations.

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

Researchers found risks were most elevated with exposures in the previous 12 months. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.