Air Pollution Hikes Heart Disease Risks in Women with Diabetes

(HealthDay News) — Long periods of exposure to air pollution — including dust and car exhaust — heightens cardiovascular (CV) risks for women with diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Jaime Hart, ScD, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues reviewed data for 114 537 women (average age, 64 years) who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, which was initiated in 1976. 

The researchers calculated the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in relation to the impact of exposure to 3 different sizes of particulate matter air pollution over 17 years of follow-up.

The researchers found that extended exposure to the smallest air pollutant particulates was linked to a 44% increase in risk for total CVD for women with diabetes. The risk for stroke was associated with a 66% increased risk in this population. Those CV risks were lower but still statistically significant for road dust-type air pollution exposure or exposure to a combination of particulate pollutants, the findings showed.

Dr Hart pointed out that the smaller the particulate matter, the further it can get into an exposed person’s lungs, spurring inflammation that can lead to blood vessel disease. Evidence suggests that the smallest particulates can even cross from the lungs into the bloodstream. 

“They don’t get cleared out of the system as easily,” Dr Hart told HealthDay. “Air pollution has adverse health effects for everyone, but people in these more sensitive groups may want to get more protection. If they live in areas with large amounts of industrial pollution, they should keep their windows closed.”


  1. Hart JE, Puett RC, Rexrode KM, Albert CM, Laden F. Effect Modification of Long‐Term Air Pollution Exposures and the Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease in US Women. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015;doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.002301.