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Microplastics Discovered in Blood Arteries are Associated with An Increased Risk of Heart Issues, According to a Study

The ability of micro and nanoplastics, which are microscopic bits of plastic strewn across the environment, to enter the body is becoming more and more apparent. This raises concerns about their ultimate destination and potential health effects. According to a recent study, researchers have discovered these plastic fragments inside fatty plaques that build up in blood arteries for the first time and have connected them to a higher risk of heart issues.

This study, which was published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that individuals with these plastic pieces in their plaques had a 4.5-fold higher risk of major complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, or death, than those without plastic in their plaques.

In particular, after a three-year period, 30 out of 150 patients, or 20% of patients, had a problem related to plastic detected in their plaques, compared to 8 out of 107 patients, or 7.5%, of patients whose plastic was not detected.

The plastics they discovered are widely used in daily life: polyvinyl chloride, which is used in pipes, insulation, and medical equipment, and polyethylene, which is used in plastic bottles and bags.

Although the study does not conclusively correlate plastic particles to an increased risk of issues, the authors did note that there is a significant correlation between microplastics and cardiovascular difficulties that warrants further investigation in future research.

The publication coincides with an increased emphasis on studies on microplastics, which are present in every aspect of the environment, including food, water, and the atmosphere. Climate change is predicted to make the problem worse because it would hasten the decomposition of plastic items due to higher temperatures. have also found them in several human organs, such as the liver, lungs, and placenta, but little research has been done to determine the true extent to which microplastics harm people’s health.

As chairman of cardiovascular medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and one of the study’s authors, Sanjay Rajagopalan stated, “There’s already a big awareness that microplastics are everywhere, in every geographic locale, “we don’t know is do they have significant health effects and should we really worry about them? What are the long-term effects?”

About 300 Italian patients who had carotid endarterectomies—a procedure to remove fatty plaque accumulation from blood vessels—were included in the study. Over time, the buildup of these plaques can obstruct blood vessels, resulting in heart attacks or strokes.

The researchers freeze the plaques that were obtained from the procedures before analyzing them. They discovered sharp plastic fragments embedded in the plaques by using microscopic methods and chemical tests.

The researchers examined inflammatory markers such as interleukin-18, interleukin-1β, interleukin-6, and TNF-α because prior studies have suggested that microplastics may exacerbate inflammation. They discovered a correlation between the quantity of plastic particles in plaques and the levels of these inflammatory markers.

Understanding the mechanisms that could explain how the microplastics might enhance inflammation and cause heart difficulties is a potential next step in this research, according to Changcheng Zhou, a professor at the University of California, Riverside who was not involved in the work. Zhou, who specializes in the chemicals found in plastic products, suggested looking into the possibility that the plaques’ contents were contaminated by chemicals found in the plastics.

“This is a much-needed analysis,” according to Tim O’Toole, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Louisville who was not involved in the study, even if the study is far from demonstrating that microplastics cause heart problems.

“The problem of microplastics contamination is going to continue or get worse because of global climate change,” stated O’Toole, a researcher specializing in the impact of pollutants on cardiac outcomes. “The increased temperature will increase the breakdown of these contaminants, and they’ll be even more and more a problem in our water supplies, in the food chain.”

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