Given the hypothesis that air pollution is associated with elevated blood pressure and heart rate, the effect of daily concentrations of air pollution on blood pressure and heart rate was assessed in 131 adults with coronary heart disease in Helsinki, Finland; Erfurt, Germany; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Blood pressure was measured by a digital monitor, and heart rate was calculated as beats per minute from an electrocardiogram recording with the patient in supine position. Particle concentrations were measured at central measuring sites. Linear regression was used to model the association between 24-hr mean concentrations of particles and blood pressure and heart rate. Estimates were adjusted for trend, day of week, temperature, barometric pressure, relative humidity, and medication use. Pooled effect estimates showed a small significant decrease in diastolic and systolic blood pressure in association with particulate air pollution; a slight decrease in heart rate was found. Of the three centers, Erfurt revealed the most consistent particle effects.
The results do not support findings from previous studies that had shown an increase in blood pressure and heart rate in healthy individuals in association with particles. However, particle effects might differ in cardiac patients because of medication intake and disease status, both affecting the autonomic control of the heart.