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Major Roadways can Increase risk of Hypertension

Update Date: Oct 01, 2014 04:06 PM EDT

A new study is reporting that people who live by major roadways might have a greater risk of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.

"I think in the United States this study does tip the scale in favor of being concerned about the urban environment and how we develop our cities and our transportation systems," said the study's corresponding author Gregory Wellenius, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. "There are a lot of new developments going up right near highways. One has to start thinking about what are the associated health effects with that."

For this study, the researchers examined data on 5,400 post-menopausal women who lived in the San Diego city area taken from the Women's Health Initiative study. That study, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, enrolled participants back in the mid 1990s. The study collected information on personal health, demographics and blood pressure.

The team looked at the distance between the women's residence and major roadways in relation to their risk of hypertension. They focused on four distances, which were 100 meters, between 100 and 200 meters, 200 to 1,000 meters and at least 1,000 meters. They controlled for several factors, such as age, ethnicity, smoking states, education level, household income, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), diabetes, physical activity level and the quality of local foods.

Overall, women who lived within 100 meters of a major roadway had a hypertension risk that was 22 percent greater than women who lived at least 1,000 meters away. The team acknowledged the fact that no causal relationship was found. They stated that several factors, such as noise, stress levels and pollutants could affect blood pressure levels. Since hypertension increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, further examining the link between hypertension and major roadways could offer more insight.

"The public health message is that we need to take into consideration the health of the population when planning neighborhoods, when planning transportation systems, and when deciding where new highways are going to go, and how we might be able to mitigate traffic or its effects," Wellenius said according to the press release.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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