London: People who live in urban areas where air pollution is high tend to have higher blood pressure (BP) than those who live in less polluted areas, says a new research.
The researchers used data from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, an ongoing population-based study of almost 5,000 individuals that focusses on the development of heart disease.
They analysed the effects of air pollution exposure on blood pressure between 2000 and 2003.
"Our results show that living in areas with higher levels of particle air pollution is associated with higher blood pressure", said Barbara Hoffman, head of the Unit of Environmental and Clinical Epidemiology, University of Duisburg-Essen, and senior author of the study.
High BP raises the risk for atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, which leads to cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes.
"Our results might explain why people who live in more polluted areas are at a higher risk to suffer and die from these diseases", said Hoffman.
It has also been shown that chronic noise exposure, for example, living close to major roads is associated with higher blood pressure or with diseases of the heart.
"This finding points out that air pollution does not only trigger life threatening events like heart attacks and strokes, but it may also influence the underlying processes, which lead to chronic cardiovascular diseases", said Hoffman.
Several large studies in Europe and the US are already underway and are expected to shed more light on the chronic effects of living in polluted areas, said a release of the University of Duisburg-Essen.
The results were presented at the ATS 2010 International Conference in New Orleans.