3. Air pollution exposure may raise heart disease risk

A new study published online on June 2016 in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism says exposure to air pollution can worsen blood sugar levels, cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease, particularly in people with diabetes. "While air pollution is linked with relatively small changes in cardiometabolic risk factors, the continuous nature of exposure and the number of people affected gives us cause for concern," said the study's senior author, Victor Novack, MD, PhD, (of the Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel).

The population-based retrospective cohort study examined the effects of air pollution exposure on 73,117 adults living in southern Israel, where levels of particulate matter can escalate due to its location in the global dust belt. The researchers used daily satellite data on how much sunlight was blocked by particles in the air -- a measurement called aerosol optical depth to evaluate the pollution levels. By examining this and other weather data, the scientists developed a model that allowed them to estimate daily air pollution exposure for each study participant using their address. The study found participants tended to have higher blood sugar levels and a poorer cholesterol profile when they were exposed to higher average levels of air particulates in the preceding three months compared to those exposed to lower levels of air pollutants. Particulate matter exposure was associated with increases in blood glucose, LDL cholesterol levels, and triglycerides, or fats in the blood. Exposure to particulate matter also was linked to lower levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol.

The associations were stronger for people with diabetes. However, those who were taking medications other than insulin to treat diabetes experienced a protective effect. This group experienced smaller changes in blood sugar and cholesterol levels following air pollution exposure.

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