In a recent study, researchers find that Healthy people exposed to even low levels of air pollution over a handful of years developed enlarged heart chambers.
This condition is a common precursor to heart failure.
Previous research has established a firm link between air pollution and higher risks of heart disease and heart-related death.
This study provides clues about how such damage gets started.
In the study, the researchers examined data from 3,920 people living within a 25-mile radius of an area in the UK with a low level of pollution that easily met international air quality standards.
The study’s volunteers, ages 40-69, did not have any heart disease at the time of imaging assessment.
Their hearts were scanned with MRI five years after the recruitment, between 2014 and 2015.
The team found that participants who were well exposed to air pollution even at relatively low levels had a larger size of the heart-pumping chamber.
Changes in heart sizes were minimal – but significant. These are the types of changes in people who are developing heart failure.
The researchers said two specific traffic-related pollutants – nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter – were strongly linked to the larger size of certain heart chambers.
Although the study looked at the link between air pollution exposure and the body’s physical features, it did not look at outcomes.
That’s the type of study that the team would like to do in the long run to really determine a causal relationship and provide an accurate estimate of how harmful these changes are.
Other researchers suggest that this finding shows that even low levels of pollution can lead to chronic, adverse structural changes in the heart.
Dr. Nay Aung, a cardiologist, is the lead author of the report.
This study is published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
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