Controlled exposure to particulate matter from urban street air is associated with decreased vasodilation and heart rate variability in overweight and older adults

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Jette Gjerke Hemmingsen, Jenny Rissler, Jens Lykkesfeldt, Gerd Sallsten, Jesper Kristiansen, Peter Møller, Steffen Loft

BACKGROUND: Exposure to particulate matter (PM) is generally associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Elderly and obese subjects may be particularly susceptible, although short-term effects are poorly described.

METHODS: Sixty healthy subjects (25 males, 35 females, age 55 to 83 years, body mass index > 25 kg/m(2)) were included in a cross-over study with 5 hours of exposure to particle- or sham-filtered air from a busy street using an exposure-chamber. The sham- versus particle-filtered air had average particle number concentrations of ~23.000 versus ~1800/cm(3) and PM2.5 levels of 24 versus 3μg/m(3), respectively. The PM contained similar fractions of elemental and black carbon (~20-25%) in both exposure scenarios. Reactive hyperemia and nitroglycerin-induced vasodilation in finger arteries and heart rate variability (HRV) measured within 1 h after exposure were primary outcomes. Potential explanatory mechanistic variables included markers of oxidative stress (ascorbate/dehydroascorbate, nitric oxide-production cofactor tetrahydrobiopterin and its oxidation product dihydrobiopterin) and inflammation markers (C-reactive protein and leukocyte differential counts).

RESULTS: Nitroglycerin-induced vasodilation was reduced by 12% [95% confidence interval: -22%; -1.0%] following PM exposure, whereas hyperemia-induced vasodilation was reduced by 5% [95% confidence interval: -11.6%; 1.6%]. Moreover, HRV measurements showed that the high and low frequency domains were significantly decreased and increased, respectively. Redox and inflammatory status did not change significantly based on the above measures.

CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that exposure to real-life levels of PM from urban street air impairs the vasomotor function and HRV in overweight middle-aged and elderly adults, although this could not be explained by changes in inflammation, oxidative stress or nitric oxide-cofactors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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