Traffic pollution may lead to heart problems: study

Exposure to traffic-related air pollution can lead to reduced heart rate variability among people with pre-existing heart or lung disease, finds a study from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Low HRV is a risk factor for sudden cardiac death.

According to a study abstract, researchers examined 300 Atlanta-area residents with lung or heart disease. Participants were asked to wear a 24-hour air pollution monitor so the associations between HRV and pollution levels could be analyzed.

Although ambient levels of pollution in city and surrounding areas were not related to HRV, the participants' individual exposure to traffic pollution -- particularly elemental carbon and nitrogen oxide -- were significantly linked to reduced HRV.

The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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