The Air Up There Could be Bad for Your Heart
MADISON - Scientists and environmentalists have been warning us for decades that air pollution is harmful to our health.
Cardiovascular imaging experts at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health are now in position to be able to help show us just how bad it is for our hearts.
The UW's Atherosclerosis Imaging Research Program, led by Dr. James Stein, (pictured) has been selected as the Carotid Ultrasound Reading Center for the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution (MESA Air). MESA Air is a 10-year study, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to study the link between exposure to air pollution and the progression of cardiovascular disease.
The MESA study began in 2000. MESA-AIR started in 2006 and will complete data collection in 2012.
The UW program received a $1.3 million grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the U.S. EPA to perform the training, quality assurance and interpretation of all the carotid ultrasound scans collected by the study over the past decade.
These scans will measure carotid intima-media thickness (IMT)-the thickness and stiffness of the carotid wall, a figure cardiologists can use to predict heart disease risk.
"MESA Air is one of the largest, ongoing, longitudinal studies of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease risk in the U.S., and it's also the only one that contains large numbers of minority populations, including African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans," says Dr. Stein. "This is a real honor for us, and a tremendous opportunity to identify and quantify a serious environmental health hazard for our hearts and blood vessels."
Study scientists suspect that breathing tiny pollutant particles produced by sources like car exhaust and burning coal may be hardening our arteries, increasing our risk of heart and stroke. These particles have already been linked to asthma and lung disease.
Dr. Stein is a national expert in the use of carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), a non-invasive tool that is used to assess vascular injury and cardiovascular disease risk.
More than 6,000 subjects from cities in New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois and California will receive scans as part of the study.
Date Published: 12/15/2009