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Member Research and Reports

University at Buffalo: Study Finds Link Between Ambient Ozone Exposure and Progression of Carotid Wall Thickness

Long-term exposure to ambient ozone, appears to accelerate arterial conditions that progress into cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to a University at Buffalo study.

It’s the first epidemiological study to provide evidence that ozone might advance subclinical arterial disease — injuries that occur to the artery walls prior to a heart attack or stroke — and provides insight into the relationship between ozone exposure and cardiovascular disease risk.

“This may indicate 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,” said study lead author Dr. Meng Wang, assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The paper was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The longitudinal study followed nearly 7,000 people aged 45 to 84 from six U.S. regions. Participants were enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and have been followed for over a decade.

Atherosclerosis refers to the build-up of plaque, or fatty deposits, in the artery walls, which, over time, restricts blood flow through the arteries. This can cause blood clots, resulting in a heart attack or stroke, depending on which artery — coronary or carotid, respectively — the plaque accumulates in.

The study found that chronic exposure to ozone was associated with a progression of thickening of the main artery that supplies blood to the head and neck. It also revealed a higher risk of carotid plaque, a later stage of arterial injury that occurs when there’s widespread plaque buildup in the intima and media, the innermost two layers of an artery wall.

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