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Traffic Pollution Exacerbates Asthma

Posted Sep 17 2013 10:07pm

Affecting over 300 million people worldwide, asthma is a chronic health condition with symptoms that can often elude sufficient management.  John Burgess, from the University of Melbourne (Australia), and colleagues utilized data from 1,383 adults, average age 44 years, enrolled in the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study to investigate the associations between ambient wood smoke and two indices of traffic-related air pollution – namely, frequency of heavy vehicles near the home and frequency of intense traffic noise; on current asthma / asthma severity.  The team observed that those adults who suffer asthma and were exposed to heavy traffic pollution experienced an 80% increase in symptoms and those exposed to wood smoke from wood fires experienced an 11% increase in symptoms.  Observing that: “In middle-aged adults, ambient wood smoke and traffic pollution were associated with increased asthma severity,” the study authors urge for: “Future studies to … examine specific biological mechanisms for this effect.”

DS Bui, JA Burgess, MC Matheson, B Erbas, J Perret, SC Dharmage, et al.  “Ambient wood smoke, traffic pollution and adult asthma prevalence and severity.”  Respirology; DOI: 10.1111/resp.12108.

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Tip #192 - Stay Connected
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:

• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.

• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.

• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Separately, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers studied 906 older men and women, testing their motor functions (including grip, pinch strength, balance, and walking) and surveying their social activity, for a period of 5 years. Those study participants with less social activity were found to have a more rapid rate of motor function decline. Specifically, the team found that every one-point decrease in social activity corresponded to an increase in functional aging of 5 years, translating to a 40% higher risk of death and 65% higher risk of disability.

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