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Narrowing of retinal arterioles could indicate heart attack or stroke

Researchers from the University of Washington - Seattle and the University of Michigan have found that a closer look at blood vessels in the eye shows a connection between heart disease and air pollution

Dr. Joel Kaufman, study leader and professor of medicine and occupational and environmental health sciences at the University of Washington, along with Sara Adar, co-author of the study and research assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of public Health, have used digital photography to observe blood vessels in the eye and found a link between air pollution and heart disease in the process. 

Up until this point, previous studies have indicated that heart disease may be linked to pollution, but the study conducted by Kaufman and Adar is the first to observe the connection between pollution and tiny blood vessels, called the microvasculature. 

Kaufman and Adar found this link by digitally photographing the tiny blood vessels located in the back of our eyes. These vessels are very similar to those found in the heart, but it is much easier to photograph those that are in the eye because they can be measured without the use of anesthesia or probes. 

Researchers used 4,607 participants who had no history of heart disease and were between the ages of 45 and 84. They snapped digital photos of the retina and calculated the fine particulate matter in the air of each participant's home. They performed this procedure over a two year span before the eye exam, and also measured short-term exposure by checking pollution levels the day before the eye exam. 

Kaufman and Adar concluded that healthy people exposed to increased levels of air pollution had "narrower retinal arterioles." The pollution levels throughout the study were, for the most part, below the EPA's acceptable level, but the tiny blood vessels still narrowed by 1/100th of a human hair. This may not seem like much, but researchers warn that this is enough to indicate a higher risk of heart disease. If all microvasculature in the body were affected the same way, it could lead to severe health consequences like a stroke or heart attack. 

When comparing short-term with long-term exposure, the study shows that participants with short-term exposure to pollution had the microvascular blood vessels of a person that is three years older while long-term exposure left participants with microvascular blood vessels of a person seven years older. According to Adar, this type of change would mean a three percent increase of heart disease risk for women who live in polluted areas as opposed to cleaner ones. Adar did not note what the percentage of increased risk for men would be. 

"The fact that this study identified a relationship between microvascular width and air pollution exposures provides a strong potential link between the epidemiological observations of more cardiovascular events like fatal heart attacks with higher pollution exposures and a verifiable biological mechanism," said Kaufman. 

Kaufman and Adar are continuing to study the effects over time in this same group of participants. They are looking to see if air pollution causes changes in vessel diameters over time in order to provide more evidence that air pollution causes the narrowing of the tiny blood vessels, thus proving that it is linked to heart disease. 

This study was published in PLoS Medicine.

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By mattclary on 12/1/2010 1:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
Without even opening it, could totally tell this was Tiffany/Jason Mick 1.0

By Reclaimer77 on 12/1/2010 2:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
It's like she trolls news sources for any mention of any study environmentally related, no matter how unverified and untested, and writes it up on DT with glowing credibility and certainty.

Like the tree one yesterday. She waits for the final paragraph to throw a quick blurb in about how the results of the study CANNOT be duplicated. Oopps. Hello? Being able to test and reproduce a hypothesis is one of the leading tenants of the scientific method and requirements for a valid theory. If you cannot test a theory, it's legitimacy much be placed into question.

What is she even doing on Daily Tech anyway? Nothing she writes about are tech related.

By Nfarce on 12/1/2010 2:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
C'mon RC you know, it's that diversity thing...

By YashBudini on 12/1/2010 7:32:08 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe in your world but not in his. He's got FitVega dragging all his diversity behind his vehicle.

By morphologia on 12/1/2010 3:27:47 PM , Rating: 1
Would the article have scientific validity if it made no mention of environmental factors? That's half the story, for Pete's sake. Providing all the facts is one of the fundamental tenets of scientific journalism.

You can't say it isn't tech because of an environmental theme. You're basically saying a story has no validity if you, personally, disagree with the findings. What's scientific about criticizing or dismissing anything that falls into a controversial category?

By Anoxanmore on 12/1/2010 4:14:47 PM , Rating: 2
Umm, it was Tracie who wrote the Tree one yesterday.

Disappointing Reclaimer, very disappointing.

By Reclaimer77 on 12/1/2010 4:41:10 PM , Rating: 1
Ugh, there's two of them now?

By Anoxanmore on 12/1/2010 8:16:39 PM , Rating: 2
Both of them write very well. You may not agree with some of the articles but their skills as writers are well honed.

By YashBudini on 12/1/2010 7:21:01 PM , Rating: 2
Disappointing Reclaimer, very disappointing.

But fair and balanced.
/heavy sarcasm

By morphologia on 12/1/2010 3:22:32 PM , Rating: 2
Is that the only comment you can make on this story? That the writer is typecast? Nothing about the science, the impact on medical practices, or even the funny and odd pic snipped from HowStuffWorks?

Some people comment to discuss, others just want an opportunity to complain.

By Reclaimer77 on 12/1/2010 3:56:06 PM , Rating: 2
There is no point debating the study itself, so we might as well attack the joke that is Tiffany.

We already know what causes heart disease. Can you explain to me how air pollution can medically manifest itself as arterial plaque? How air pollution can cause high cholesterol and poor diets?

Even if this study could prove some level of correlation, the simple undisputed fact is there are many more overruling and known causes of heart disease that take precedence over anything this study could reveal.

They are playing connect the dots, that's all.

By YashBudini on 12/1/2010 7:23:39 PM , Rating: 2
There is no point debating the study itself, so we might as well attack the joke that is Tiffany.

Would you expect such a comment from the biggest cry baby of ad hominem attacks around here?

Of course you would, cause in his mind this is a fair and balanced conversation with the Faux methodology.

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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