POLLUTION in cities could be giving teens higher blood pressure — especially in girls.
Tiny air pollution particles were associated with a greater risk of the deadly condition.
King’s College London researchers studied more than 3,000 youngsters in the capital.
They said more research is urgently needed to see how air pollution is affecting children and teenagers’ cardiovascular health.
Professor Seeromanie Harding, said her study “provides a unique opportunity to track exposures of adolescents living in deprived neighbourhoods”.
She said: “More than one million under-18s live in neighbourhoods where air pollution is higher than the recommended health standards.
“There is an urgent need for more of these studies to gain an in-depth understanding of the threats to young people’s development.”
One in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure, known as hypertension.
It is a growing problem in children and teenagers, with six per cent of youngsters having high blood pressure in 2015, up from three per cent in the 2000s.
The condition is responsible for more than half of all strokes and heart attacks, and is also a risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and vascular dementia.
The latest study, published in the journal Plos One, examined the effects of air pollution on children at 51 schools across London.
Researchers analysed data from 3,284 adolescents, following up from ages 11 to 13 and 14 to 16 years old.
Particulate Matter — tiny pollutants that come from car exhaust fumes and building materials — was associated with higher blood pressure, particularly among girls.
Dr Alexis Karamanos said: “The findings highlight the potential detrimental role of exposure to higher concentrations of particulate matter on adolescents’ blood pressure levels.”
What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?
You might be more at risk if you:
- are overweight
- eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
- do not do enough exercise
- drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
- do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
- are over 65
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are of black African or black Caribbean descent
- live in a deprived area
Source: The NHS
Meanwhile, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a pollutant from diesel traffic — was associated with lower blood pressure.
Dr Andrew Webb said: “The effect of NO2 on blood pressure is similar to what we and other researchers have observed previously after ingesting green leafy vegetables or beetroot juice.
“These are rich in dietary nitrate (NO3-) which increases circulating nitrite (NO2-) concentration in the blood and lowers blood pressure, an effect which may also be sustained over weeks or months with continued ingestion of nitrate-rich vegetables.”