A study published in the journal Hypertension showed how fine particles affect the body’s cardiovascular processes, specifically, when taking into account heavily polluted environments, as it is the case of many Chinese cities.
Studying the effects of air pollution on blood pressure
The participants were non-smokers and were affected by a metabolic syndrome that showed resistance to insulin.
The research team managed to establish a link between their exposure to fine particulate matter in their respiratory systems and their systolic blood pressure is increasing. On the other hand, the particular exposure to carbon-combustion emissions was tied to increases in diastolic blood pressure.
Systolic blood pressure is the higher of the two numbers, while diastolic is the smaller. An average reading of blood pressure, as dictated by the American Heart Association, would be of lesser than 120/80.
The participants of the study displayed a constant variation of at least 2 mm Hg in their readings, which may not appear as much, but since it is caused by the environment in which the person is living in, it is a grave concern for the individuals’ health. The resistance to insulin was also shown to have increased, pointing towards the fact that air pollution may be a direct contributor to the developing of diabetes mellitus.
But it was a meta-study, also performed in China, which confirmed the devastating effects of air pollution upon human health.
Hypertension News: Heavy exposure to air pollution increases risk for developing hypertension during pregnancy… http://t.co/xlrvqMQ9fV
— News-Medical.Net (@HypertensionNET) May 19, 2014
Compiling previous research efforts
Recently, the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the results of 17 studies that analyzed the links between air pollution and hypertension. The base blood pressure established by the researchers was 140/90, any reading above that number was labeled as high blood pressure. Researchers reviewed the results of at least 300,000 people. They diagnosed one out of every three subjects with high blood pressure.
The exposure to particles coming from the combustion of fossil and mineral fuels, dust, nitrogen dioxide and other contaminants, was linked to the person having elevated blood pressure. Although there is a clear relationship between contamination and hypertension, there is still not enough evidence to claim that air pollution directly causes high blood pressure.
Researchers still need to find a particular process that proves how air contamination always causes high blood pressure. It was suggested by U.S. investigators that a good place to start would be in the same methodologies that linked lung cancer and smoking.
Air pollution is also known to cause complications related to pregnancy, including mortality and morbidity. Although the underlying causes have not been identified, a meta-study carried on by the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology of Barcelona, Spain, reviewed the results of 17 papers. The research efforts showed how air pollution increased the apparent risk of pregnancy disorders related to hypertension.
The causes are clear, but more work is needed
The link between high blood pressure and air pollution is a serious concern. The primary method to deal with high blood pressure is to develop a healthy lifestyle, which could be difficult if the city the person lives in is contaminated by emissions coming from factories, cars, or dust storms.
Family history plays a great role in the development of high blood pressure. Becoming older and not performing enough physical activity are also risk factors for hypertension, but healthy eating habits are often the primary factor through which most people distance themselves from high blood pressure. A diet high in salt, calories, and fats, is likely to cause obesity and hypertension, as salt is a direct contributor to higher blood pressure.
Frequent alcohol consumption also increases blood pressure significantly, besides causing other cardiovascular diseases. Lastly, there’s smoking, which is a key contributor as our lungs must filter the harmful particles that enter the respiratory system, the same process that air pollution is likely to follow to cause elevated blood pressure.
Several cities in China have been selected as the most contaminated in the world, as China still incurs in the combustion of coal for power purposes. The lead author of the research made by the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Tao Liu, Ph.D., stated that their next step is to establish a possible link between particulate matter and the risk of hypertension so they can provide a sound basis for new air pollution control measures.
Liu suggested that people should try and limit their exposure to contaminants where air pollution levels are high, specifically for those that already are dealing with high blood pressure, as the primary focus of the analysis was short-term exposure to contamination.
The Association Between Antihypertensive Medication Nonadherence and Visit-to-Visit Variability of Blood Pressure. https://t.co/SJ4JU7yjHt
— Hypertension (@HyperAHA) May 26, 2016
High blood pressure can cause heart failure, an increase in undergoing a heart attack, stroke, dementia, mild cognitive impairment and much more. Living in an environment that is constantly under the effects of air pollution may put a heavy burden on people’s lives when it comes to cardiovascular diseases.
Reducing the factors that contribute towards air pollution are among the current objectives of world leaders, as there has to be a genuine commitment towards reducing the health hazards related to the environment, especially those that are caused by man.