Researchers say, exposure to air pollution accelerates the thickening of artery walls that leads to cardiovascular disease.
The study, by boffins at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), in collaboration with international partners in Spain and Switzerland and colleagues in California, has been published in the journal PloS ONE.
In the study researchers found that artery wall thickening among people living within 100 meters (328 feet) of a Los Angeles highway progressed twice as quickly as those who lived farther away.
"The fact that we can detect progression of atherosclerosis in relation to ambient air pollution above and beyond other well-established risk factors indicates that environmental factors may play a larger role in the risk for cardiovascular disease than previously suspected," says study co-author Howard N. Hodis, M.D., director of the Atherosclerosis Research Unit and professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
Atherosclerosis-or stiffening and calcification of arteries-is a condition that leads to heart attacks, stroke and related deaths.