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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Jul;107(7):521-5.

Daily variation of particulate air pollution and poor cardiac autonomic control in the elderly.

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Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


examined the cardiac autonomic response to daily variations in PM in 26 elderly (mean age 81) individuals for 3 consecutive weeks. Several standardized methods were used to measure 24-hr average PM concentrations prior to the clinical test inside (indoor PM2.5) and immediately outside (outdoor PM2.5 and PM2.5-10) of participants' residences. Resting, supine, 6-min R wave to R wave (R-R) interval data were collected to estimate high frequency (0.15-0.40 Hz) and low frequency (0.04-0.15 Hz) powers and standard deviation of normal R-R intervals (SDNN) as cardiac autonomic control indices. Participant-specific lower heart rate variability days were defined as days for which the high-frequency indices fell below the first tertile of the individual's high-frequency distribution over the study period. Indoor PM2.5 > 15 microg/m3 was used to define high pollution days. Results show that the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of low heart rate variability high frequency for high (vs. not high) pollution days was 3.08 (1.43, 6.59). The ss-coefficients (standard error) from mixed models to assess the quantitative relationship between variations in indoor PM2.5 and the log-transformed high frequency, low frequency, and SDNN were: -0.029 (0.010), -0.027 (0.009), and -0.004 (0.003), respectively. This first study of cardiac autonomic control response to daily variations of PM2.5 indicates that increased levels of PM2.5 are associated with lower cardiac autonomic control, suggesting a possible mechanistic link between PM and cardiovascular disease mortality.

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