Most people know that fine dust, one of the most pressing environmental problems facing the world, increases the occurrence of not only respiratory but also cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, leading to more deaths.
A group of Korean researchers, however, has found that people who live in places of high concentration of fine particulate matter have higher fasting blood glucose and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which are the leading causes of diabetes and dyslipidemia.
The researchers released their findings in a paper titled “Exposure to ambient fine particulate matter is associated with changes in fasting glucose and lipid profiles: a nationwide cohort study,” on Monday. Two teams, led by Chung-Ang University Hospital Department of Family Medicine Professor Shin Woo-young and Seoul National University Hospital Professor Park Sang-min, conducted the study.
|Professor Shin Woo-young of Department of Family Medicine at Chung-Ang University Hospital|
They used the National Health Insurance Service's big data of health checkups on 43,595 men and 42,274 women over 20. The researchers tracked and observed for two years and studied how exposure to fine dust affected fasting blood glucose level and lipid profiles in subjects.
The level of fasting blood glucose and LDL-cholesterol significantly elevated among those who lived in a place with a high concentration of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5)
The study divided the total of 85,869 people into four groups depending on the density of fine particulate matter in residence. Two years of their health checkups showed, the higher the particulate matter was, the greater the fasting blood glucose and LDL-cholesterol blood levels were in the subjects.
Besides, the average level of fasting blood glucose and LDL-cholesterol elevated the most in the residents of the area with the highest concentration of fine dust.
The results were more clearly seen among people over 60 or those who do not get regular physical activities. However, no significant changes were confirmed in places with particulate matter of size between 2.5 to 10 micrometers.
As a result, the research team confirmed that prolonged exposure to the fine particulate matter could increase the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to elevated blood glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels.
Some studies had confirmed the association between the prevalence of chronic illness and exposure to fine particulate matter. Still, the long-term effects on changes in fasting blood glucose or LDL-cholesterol levels had not been identified, according to Professor Shin.
"However, we confirmed that fine particulate matter in the air could act as a risk factor for long-term blood glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels depending on the size of the particle,” Shin said. “We also confirmed the significance of controlling the particles in the air in the case of patients with high-risk for chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia."
Professor Park also said that people should pay more attention to particulate matter management because these health effects are more vulnerable among the elderly. He added that regular physical activities could help prevent chronic diseases caused by the particle.
The study was published in the latest issue of BioMed Central Public Health, an international academic journal.
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