A recent study from the Journal of Public Health has found that air pollution and living in densely populated apartment buildings may be associated with an increased risk of dangerous conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Heart diseases are a leading cause of death in developing countries. Hypertension and metabolic syndrome are important causes of heart related diseases. Metabolic syndrome is further associated with abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, and higher blood glucose levels.
The researchers investigated the associations between a long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and residential distance to green spaces and major roads with the development of hypertension and some components of metabolic syndrome. Such components included a high triglyceride level, reduced high density lipoprotein cholesterol.
These associations were assessed among people living in private houses or multi-storey houses in Kaunas City, a city of about 280,000 people and the second largest city of Lithuania.
The results indicate that air pollution levels above the median are associated with a higher risk of reduced high density lipoprotein. Traffic-related exposure was associated with the incidence of hypertension, higher triglyceride level and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
It is important to note that these negative impacts of traffic air pollutants were primarily observed in the participants who lived in multifamily buildings.
Since there is more traffic near the multifamily apartment buildings, this may be associated with the incidence of hypertension as well. In addition, a built-up environment, high residential density, street traffic and its configurations are further factors, which could also impact cardiovascular health.
On the other hand, the greenness, size and activities of available open public spaces were observed by the researchers to be inversely related to the risk factors assessed. This echoes the findings of another related study which highlight the positive effect of the natural environment and emphasized the health benefits of such public spaces on cardiovascular health.
Agn Brazien, the study’s lead author said, “Our research results enable us to say that we should regulate as much as possible the living space for one person in multifamily houses, improve the noise insulation of apartments, and promote the development of green spaces in multifamily houses.”
Brazien added that the research team intends to carry out further related studies, with the hope that their findings will help to inform and influence air-pollution control policy-makers.