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Effect of air pollution on atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which artery walls accumulate fat deposits, cholesterol and other substances in and on it. The deposition is called plaque and over time, it hardens leading to narrowing of arteries. It gradually causes cardiovascular issues like such as coronary heart disease or peripheral artery disease, as well as a heart attack or stroke when plaque restricts the optimal flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients to body parts. Detected causes leading to atherosclerosis are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. Now, scientists also doubt the active role of air pollution in causing atherosclerosis. Studies were conducted and results showed long term exposure to ozone has caused considerable increase in rate of carotid wall thickness progression and risk of new plaque formation in many cases. This in turn can injure carotid arteries — the two large vessels responsible for supplying blood to the head and neck. "This may indicate that the association between long-term exposure to ozone and cardiovascular mortality that has been observed in some studies is due to arterial injury and acceleration of atherosclerosis," says Meng Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health. However, scientists still have a long way to go as they just know that long-term exposure to ozone causes atherosclerosis, but are unaware of its biological processes.

Blueberries and heart health

Blueberries are rich in nutritional values and are tasty. Having a cupful of them on a daily basis have proved to improve metabolism markers linked to cardiovascular risk in an individual. Metabolic syndrome is a package of conditions like high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar levels, abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When combined, they may lead to cardiovascular issues as well as type 2 Diabetes. Studies were conducted on blueberries to see whether they have positive effects on metabolic profile of people with metabolic syndrome. Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins – a water soluble pigment found in plant parts like root stem etc. in red, black, blue, or purple colors. Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, which might be the reason it had positive impacts on reducing risks of 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in earlier studies. "We wanted to find out whether eating blueberries could help people who have already been identified as being at risk of developing these sort of conditions.", lead researcher Prof. Aedin Cassidy. During the study, participants were divided into three groups where one group had 1 whole cup of freeze-dried powdered blueberries per day, second group had half a cup and third one acted as a control group. Results showed that participants who consumed one whole cup per day made a remarkable result by reducing cardiovascular disease risk by 12-15%. On the other hand, even the group who consumed half a cup every day did not exhibit any kind of benefits.