Does air pollution contribute to hypertension?

air pollution and hypertension

A recent study investigated the link between air pollution and hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers in Lithuania published a study in the Journal of Public Health that explains how air pollution and living in apartment buildings may be associated with an increased risk of hypertension. In most developing countries cardiovascular diseases, particularly hypertension and metabolic syndrome, are leading causes of death. Additionally, metabolic syndrome is also related to obesity and higher blood sugar levels, which have been found to contribute to several diseases. Along with genetic factors, lifestyle, and diet, this study shows that environmental factors such as air pollution, traffic noise, residential housing, and neighborhood quality may contribute to these disease states as well.

What is it about living situations that impacts cardiovascular health?

This study evaluated the association between exposure to air pollution and the distance from green spaces versus major roads and the development of hypertension and metabolic syndrome. The analysis included metabolic syndrome markers like fat, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, in addition to obesity. A total of 1354 participants living in private and multi-story houses in Kaunas City, Lithuania were included in the study.

The results of this study demonstrated that higher than average air pollution levels are associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol, and traffic-related exposure was associated with an increased risk of hypertension, increased triglyceride levels, and decreased levels of good cholesterol. On the other hand, poor outcomes relating to exposure to traffic and air pollutants were only observed in participants who lived in multifamily buildings. Researchers discussed how the increased prevalence of traffic near multifamily apartment buildings may account for an increased risk of hypertension. However, large residential densities and street traffic were found to contribute to fostering social interactions and supportive relationships that may consequently improve cardiovascular health.

What this could mean for future living arrangements?

Altogether, the availability of greenness, size, and type of activities available for open public spaces was shown to not be associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Moreover, researchers found that such factors may have positive effects on cardiovascular health, but more research is needed to be done prior to drawing such conclusions. As such, it is important to regulate the availability of resources for healthy living environments, especially for individuals living in multifamily houses. The results of the study suggest a need to improve the noise insulation of apartments and encourage the development of green spaces in multifamily houses, in an effort to decrease the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

Written by Tatsiana Verstak, M.S., B.S.

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Reference: Braziene A, et al. Association between the living environment and the risk of arterial hypertension and other components of metabolic syndrome. Journal of Public Health. 24 June 2019.

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