Air Pollution Leads to Carotid Artery Stenosis

People with more exposure to air pollution are more likely to have carotid artery stenosis, researchers from NYU School of Medicine's Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease have found.

People with more exposure to air pollution are more likely to have carotid artery stenosis, researchers from NYU School of Medicine’s Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease have found.

In a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology Jonathan Newman, MD, MPH, and colleagues report on exposure to outdoor fine particulate air pollution and the prevalence of carotid artery stenosis(CAS) in more than 300,000 residents of the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The residents were age 40 to 80 and all had taken part in vascular screening thought they had not had previous procedures for carotid disease.

These were primarily individuals who self-paid for the screening from 2003 to 2008.

Before the tests, they completed questionnaires about their demographics, other health problems, cardiovascular risk factors, and family history.

The researchers were able to assess their exposure to particular air pollution by using US Environmental Protections Agency’s (EPA) air quality data, which is broken down by zip code.

They then compared exposures, divided into quartiles, with the incidence of CAS. The data was adjusted for age, demographics, medical history and zip code median household income. Sensitivity analyses of moderate and severe CAS were also done.

Those in the quartile showing the most exposure to pollution were younger, less likely to be white, have hypertension, have hyperlipidemia, or exercise regularly. They were more likely to have diabetes.

After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, high cholesterol, hypertension, physical activity, family history, household income, and smoking behaviors, the team found nearly a 2-fold increase in CAS for every incremental increase in exposure to fine particulates.

“Our study demonstrates for the first time that particulate air pollution is independently associated with CAS,” the researchers found. They call for future studies to analyze which sources and components of the particulate pollution show the strongest association with CAS.