Air pollution is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and some people may be more susceptible to its effects than others. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health used data from a nationwide study of nurses to look for factors that made people more vulnerable to the effects of long-term air pollution exposure. One factor in particular stood out to the researchers: type 2 diabetes. The team reports its findings in a paper published November 25, 2015 in the Journal of the American Heart Association Report.

“We didn’t expect diabetes to be the strongest factor in determining susceptibility,” said study lead author Jaime E. Hart, an epidemiologist in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH and the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School. “We looked at age, family history of cardiovascular disease, weight, smoking status, and region of the country but diabetes was the most consistent across diseases and across different size fractions of particulate matter.”

The research team explored data from more than 100,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), looking at rates of cardiovascular disease, specifically incidence of coronary heart disease and stroke. They assessed long-term exposure to three different sizes of particulate matter air pollution from 1989 to 2006.

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