Harvard Heart Letter

Thick air, thick arteries

Even at currently acceptable levels, air pollution may lead to blocked arteries and stroke.

Only two and a half years into its planned 10-year duration, the MESA study (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution) already suggests that fine particulate air pollution causes thickening of the arteries.

Researchers in six U.S. cities collected ultrasound exams from 5,362 adults of various ethnicities. The point of the study was to find out whether the heart risks from dirty air go beyond heart attacks triggered by short-term heavy exposure. Preliminary findings suggest that long-term pollution exposure increases stroke risk.

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