Heart changes are linked to regular exposure to even lower levels of air pollution a British study found. These changes are similar to those in the early stages of heart failure, experts say.
The study involved 4,000 people in the UK who had no underlying heart problems and were part of the UK Biobank study. The team found that those who lived by loud, busy roads had larger hearts on average than those living in less polluted areas, BBC reports.
The research team from Queen Mary University of London, analysed the size, weight and function of their hearts. They compared this data with the the pollution levels in the areas the participants lived.
Their study found a clear link between exposure to higher pollution levels and larger right and left ventricles - important pumping chambers in the heart.
For every extra one microgram per cubic metre of PM2.5 - small particles of air pollution - and for every 10 extra micrograms per cubic metre of nitrogen dioxide, the heart enlarged by about 1%.
Modifiable risk factor
Air pollution should be seen as a modifiable risk factor," said said Dr Nay Aung, who led the study's data analysis.
Dr Aung said the changes in the heart were small and potentially reversible.
All of the participants in the study lived outside of the major UK cities and all of them were exposed to levels of PM2.5 air pollution well below current UK limits. The average annual exposures to PM2.5 ranged from eight to 12 micrograms per cubic metre in the study.
This fine particle pollution is particularly dangerous because it can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system.