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Study: Asbestos exposure increases risk of heart disease, stroke

It has long been known that exposure to asbestos significantly increases the risk of developing diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Now, a new study has reportedly found that people who are exposed to asbestos fibers for an extended period of time may also be at an increased risk for diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

In the study, researchers analyzed medical information and causes of death for about 100,000 asbestos workers who had taken part in voluntary health monitoring. Most of the men who took part in the survey worked in asbestos removal, and most of the female participants worked in manufacturing.

To determine the comparative death rates of the asbestos workers and the general population, the researchers compared the number of deaths from heart attack and stroke in the asbestos group against standardized mortality rates. They determined that asbestos workers were much more likely to die of those causes than the general population. This was true even when researchers took into account the percentage of asbestos workers that smoked cigarettes, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, male asbestos workers were 39 percent more likely to die of heart disease and 63 percent more likely to die of stroke than the general population. Female workers were 89 percent more likely to die of heart disease and a staggering 100 percent more likely to die of stroke.

The reason for these higher rates, researchers believe, is because asbestos works as an inflammatory agent. Because inflammation plays a part in cardiovascular disease, it makes sense that asbestos could worsen these conditions and ultimately cause death.

Source: Science Codex, "Asbestos workers at significantly increased risk of heart disease/strokes," April 2, 2012

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