Jesus Araujo, MD PhD Msc
Extensive efforts and funds have been invested on cardiovascular research in epidemiology, physiology, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, pharmacology, which have yielded dividends in a continuous decline in total cardiovascular mortality over the last decades. In spite of this, diseases of the heart are still responsible for the first cause of death in the western world. Atherosclerosis is the main pathogenic substrate for most of the cardiovascular deaths, an inflammatory condition that affects medium and large-size arteries where lipid infiltration and development of inflammation in the vascular wall represent the hallmarks of the disease. Over the recent years, cumulative epidemiological and experimental data have shown that exposure to air pollutants lead to increased cardiovascular events and enhanced atherosclerosis. It appears that these associations are much stronger with the air particulate matter (PM) component and that in urban areas; the smaller particles could be more pathogenic, as a result of their greater propensity to induce systemic prooxidant and proinflammatory effects. We have shown that air pollutants lead to increased lipid peroxidation, loss of the protective qualities of plasma high-density lipoproteins and atherosclerosis. This lecture will review experimental evidence in support of the determination of air pollution as a cardiovascular risk factor, and recent evidence which portrays it as a modulator of other cardiovascular risk factors as well.