Association of air pollution and greenness with carotid plaque: A prospective cohort study in China

Yinyu Xie, Weiliang He, Xiaoling Zhang, Jian Cui, Xiaochao Tian, Jiang Chen, Kaihua Zhang, Shanshan Li, Niu Di, Hao Xiang, Hebo Wang, Gongbo Chen, Yuming Guo

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Previous studies indicated that exposure to air pollution was associated with the progress of atherosclerosis, but evidence is very limited in China and even in the world. This study aims to assess the associations of long-term exposures to air pollution and greenness with the occurrence of carotid plaque. Participants of this cohort study were urban residents and office workers who visited Hebei General Hospital for routine physical examination annually from September 2016 through to December 2018. Eligible participants were people diagnosed the absence of carotid plaque clinically at their first hospital visit and were followed up at their second or third hospital visit. Exposure to particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) were estimated using an inverse distance weighted (IDW) method. The level of greenness was assessed using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI). The associations were evaluated using Cox proportional hazards regression models. Among 4,137 participants, 575 showed the occurrence of carotid plaque during the follow-up period. After controlling for potential confounders, the hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CIs) of carotid plaque associated with per interquartile range (IQR) increase in PM2.5, NO2, and O3 were 1.78 (1.55, 2.03), 1.32 (1.14, 1.53) and 1.99 (1.71, 2.31), respectively. Increased EVI and NDVI were significantly associated with lower risk of carotid plaque [HR (and 95%CI): 0.84 (0.77, 0.93) and 0.87 (0.80, 0.94)]. PM2.5 significantly mediated 80.47% or 93.00% of the estimated association between EVI or NDVI and carotid plaque. In light of the significant associations between air pollution, greenness and carotid plaque in this study, continued efforts are needed to curb air pollution and plan more green space considering their effects on vascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116514
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021


  • Air pollution
  • Carotid plaque
  • Cohort study
  • Greenness

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