People living in urban areas are twice as likely as are their country counterparts to suffer from coronary artery calcification (CAC), a condition that leads to heart disease.
CAC is the accumulation of calcium deposits in arteries.
Researchers, led by Jess Lambrechtsen, cardiologist at Svendborg Hospital in Denmark, spoke to 1,225 men and women aged 50 to 60 years, including 251 who lived in the centers of major Danish cities.
Despite the fact that none of the participants showed any symptoms of heart disease, 43 percent of the total had CAC, the Journal of Internal Medicine reports.
The study also found that people who lived in city centers were 80 percent more likely to develop CAC than those living in other areas and that males, older participants, diabetics and smokers also faced higher risks, according to a Svendborg statement.
"Our study aimed to evaluate the association between living in a city center, which is often used by researchers to indicate exposure to air pollution, and the presence of coronary artery calcification in men and women showing no other symptoms of heart disease," explains Lambrechtsen.
The participants were selected at random from a national government database of Danish adults, and 69 percent agreed to take part and attend one of four regional hospitals in Southern Denmark.
Three percent were excluded from the study because of previous heart problems, leaving 1,225 people who did not display any symptoms of heart disease. Of these, 47 percent were male and 53 percent were female and they were equally split between the 50 year-old and 60 year-old age groups.
Key findings included: CAC was more common in people living in city centers, rather than urban or rural areas - in men (69 percent vs 56 percent), women (42 percent vs 30 percent ), 50 year-olds (48 percent vs 32 percent) and 60 year-olds (61 percent vs 53 percent).