Forever-chemicals linked to high blood pressure in middle-aged women

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Forever-chemicals linked to high blood pressure in middle-aged women

Research Highlights:

  • In a large, prospective study, levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are common man-made chemicals found in water, soil, air and food, have been linked to an increased risk of hypertension in middle-aged people in the United States associated women.

  • The study found that women with the highest levels of a third of all seven PFAS studied had a 71% increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

Embargo until 4:00am CT/5:00am ET Monday, June 13, 2022

(NewMediaWire) — June 13, 2022 — Middle-aged DALLAS women with higher blood levels of common synthetic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as forever chemicals, found in water, soil, air and food were higher Risk of developing high blood pressure compared to peers who had lower levels of these substances, according to a new study published today in hypertensiona journal of the American Heart Association.

PFAS are a class of synthetic chemicals, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are thousands of different PFAS used in everyday household items such as certain shampoos, dental floss, cosmetics, non-stick cookware, food packaging, and stain-resistant coatings on carpets, upholstery, and clothing. The perennial chemicals also enter the food system, for example, through fish caught in PFAS-contaminated water and dairy products from cows exposed to PFAS through fertilizer on farms.

Even at low levels in the blood, research has shown that PFAS can have adverse health effects. Some PFAS have been linked to cardiovascular risk, including endothelial dysfunction (impaired functioning of blood vessels), oxidative stress, and elevated cholesterol levels. However, previous studies have not examined whether PFAS levels affect blood pressure control in middle-aged women.

Previously released data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows how common PFAS exposure is, given that nearly all Americans have detectable levels of at least one PFAS in their blood.

PFAS are known as eternal chemicals because they never break down in the environment and contaminate drinking water, soil, air, food and numerous products that we consume or that we routinely encounter. A study estimates that two of the most common chemicals are forever found in most household drinking water and are consumed by more than two-thirds of Americans, said the study’s lead author Ning Ding, Ph.D., MPH, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Women appear to be particularly vulnerable when exposed to these chemicals, she said. Our study is the first to examine the association between chronic chemicals and high blood pressure in middle-aged women. Exposure may be an underestimated risk factor for cardiovascular disease risk in women.

Using data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation-Multi-Pollutant Study (SWAN-MPS), a prospective midlife study of women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, the researchers examined the blood levels of certain PFAS and the risk of High blood pressure . The data included more than 1,000 women aged 45 to 56 who had normal blood pressure at study entry. Blood concentrations of PFAS were measured at the start of the study. All participants were observed almost annually from 1999 to 2017. Participants were recruited from five institutional locations (Boston, Pittsburgh, Southeast Michigan, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California) in the US and self-identified as Black (15.2%), Chinese (14.1%), and Japanese ( 16.2%). or white women (54.5%). All sites enrolled non-Hispanic white women in addition to an additional racial/ethnic group.

The analysis revealed:

  • During the follow-up period of 11,722 person-years for all study participants, 470 women developed hypertension.

  • Women with higher levels of specific PFAS were more likely to develop hypertension: women with the highest one-third levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and 2-(N-ethylperfluorooctanesulfonamido)acetic acid (EtFOSAA, a PFOS precursor) had a 42%, 47%, and 42% greater risk of developing hypertension, respectively, compared to women with the lowest levels of one-third of these PFAS.

  • Women with the highest levels of one-third of all seven PFAS studied had a 71% increased risk of developing hypertension.

“It’s important to note that we examined both individual PFAS and multiple PFAS together and found that combined exposure to multiple PFAS had a stronger effect on blood pressure,” said study senior author Sung Kyun Park, Sc.D ., MPH, to Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Some states are beginning to ban the use of PFAS in food packaging and cosmetic and personal care products. Our results make it clear that strategies need to be developed to limit the widespread use of PFAS in products. Switching to alternative options may help reduce the onset of high blood pressure risk in middle-aged women.

We’ve known for some time that PFAS disrupt metabolism in the body, but we didn’t expect the strength of the association we found. “We hope these results will make physicians aware of the importance of PFAS and that they need to understand and acknowledge PFAS as an important potential risk factor in blood pressure control,” Park said.

The study was limited in that it included only middle-aged women, so the results may not extrapolate to men or younger or older women. The authors note that more research is needed to confirm these associations and to identify ways to reduce PFAS exposure.

Co-authors are Carrie A. Karvonen-Gutierrez, Ph.D., MPH; Bhramar Mukherjee, Ph.D.; Antonia M. Calafat, Ph.D.; and Siobn D. Harlow, Ph.D. The authors’ details are given in the manuscript.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Studies published in the American Heart Association’s scientific journals are peer-reviewed. The statements and conclusions contained in each manuscript are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the association. The Association makes no representations or warranties as to their accuracy or reliability. The association is mainly financed by individuals; Foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, and other corporations) also make donations and sponsor specific programs and events of the association. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing scholarly content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, device manufacturers and health insurance companies as well as the general financial information of the associations are available here.

Additional Resources:

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association works tirelessly for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are committed to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Working with numerous organizations and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for public health and share life-saving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by phone 1-800-AHA-USA1.

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