Air pollution may cause and accelerate the narrowing of carotid arteries, according to a recent study. Researchers have found an association between long-term air pollution and the early stages of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). They say that air pollution, similar to smoking, may contribute to cardiovascular problems at a very early stage of the disease.
Researchers reviewed data from two clinical trials on 798 people ages 40 and older who lived in the Los Angeles area. The data included thickness measurements of the inner lining of participants' neck arteries. It was found that participants' artery inner-lining thickness increased as pollutant amount increased. The association between the two was greatest among people over age 60, women, and those taking cholesterol-lowering medication.
Thus researchers say air pollution causes the body to produce oxidants that cause inflammatory reactions that trigger artery damage. Air particles can move into the blood or brain. However, they say the study was not large enough to make broad generalizations and they say that there's a need for further study because of the implications that the effect of air pollution on cardiovascular disease has.