In a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers in Sweden have linked exposure to environmental toxins to an increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
In past years, studies have associated exposure to environmental pollutants like PCBs, dioxin and pesticides to cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure and heart attack. This new study clearly links exposure to atherosclerosis.
Researchers from Uppsala University studied 1,016 adults age 70 or older. The participants were tested for 23 different environmental toxins. Researchers then compared participants’ levels of environmental exposure to the health of their arteries, gauged by the amount of plaque build-up in the carotid artery.
The researchers found a strong association between seven of the 23 environmental pollutants tested and plaque build-up in the carotid artery.
Since heart attack and stroke, which are both associated with atherosclerosis, are leading causes of death in industrialized countries, investigating potential environmental contributors to disease may help reduce risks on a population level. The researchers are now following the study participants to see whether exposure to toxins increases their actual risk of heart attack or stroke.
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