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Air Pollution Likely To Cause Chronic High Blood Pressure

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A review of 17 international studies has found more evidence that air pollution increases the risk for people to develop to dangerously high blood pressure.

The studies all conducted an analysis linking blood pressure to polluted air caused by common pollutants such as vehicles, coal burning factories and airborne dust or dirt. Tao Liu, study author and deputy director of the environmental health division in the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in Guangzhou, China, says,

Our results demonstrated that air pollutants had both short-term and long-term effects on [high blood pressure] risks.

The results of the study found that there are short-term and long-term implications with regards to air pollution exposure and high blood pressure. Short-term implications are that a few days of heightened air pollution could lead to a spike in emergency hospital visits due to temporary blood pressure increases. In the long-term, those who have consistently lived in areas with high air pollution levels could end up with chronically high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a primary risk factor for stroke and heart disease, which is the number cause of deaths worldwide. High blood pressure itself is linked to some 17% of global fatalities.

The researchers reviewed 17 studies that involved an estimated 328,000 people, about 108,000 of whom had high blood pressure. The studies, conducted in Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Iran, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and the United States, defined “short-term pollution exposure” as exposure over a number of days, while “long-term pollution exposure” took place over years.

The team focused on air pollutants like nitrogen oxide, which comes from fossil fuels expelled by factories and vehicles, sulfur dioxide which is also a fossil fuel, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter like dust specks, dirt, smoke and liquid droplets.

“It is urgent to take more actions to protect our environment and clean the air quality,” Liu says.

People with high blood pressure – and everyone else – should “closely focus on the air quality every day, and try to avoid outdoor activities or wear filtered masks when air quality is poor,” Liu says.

According to the study’s notes, causes of high blood pressure or hypertension include lifestyle habits, genes, diet and environmental factors. Until now, studies linking high blood pressure to air pollution has been the subject of much debate, Liu says.

The researchers recommend avoiding outdoor activities when pollution levels are high, or using air purifiers indoors.

The study results were published on May 31 in the journal Hypertension.

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