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Ground Zero Responders Have High Rates Of Atherosclerosis

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Arterial plaque is the newest in issues facing Ground Zero responders who appear to have high rates of atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries). It seems that World Trade Center first responders who experienced the high-level exposure to the toxic cloud that surrounded the New York terror attacks are exhibiting “high-risk” features consistent with atherosclerosis

The Insurance Journal explained that researchers utilized MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) testing to review cardiovascular risk in Ground Zero first responders.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate cardiovascular risk of WTC first responders. The data obtained was just presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011, which took place in Orlando, Florida. Findings reveal increased impairment in cardiac relaxation and coronary calcification in the Ground Zero group versus the population at large, said the Insurance Journal. This impairment was seen specifically in responders exposed to toxic dust at Ground Zero in the first two days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Using noninvasive MRI imaging, we were able to see a significant impact of the events of 9/11 on the cardiovascular health of the brave men and women who responded that day,” said Zahi Fayad, director of Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s translational and molecular imaging institute, the Insurance Journal wrote. “Now that we have visualized the risk and early development of vascular lesions, in a subset of subjects, we look forward to studying the use of imaging in the greater patient population,” Fayad added.

The study was conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai who have been reviewing cardiovascular health in Ground Zero first responders since 2007. The team evaluated the blood vessels of 19 responders exposed to high levels of particulate matter from the World Trade Center dust cloud; 12 responders exposed to lower particulate matter levels were also studied, said the Insurance Journal.

A recent Bloomberg News report stated that the 31 participants were considered fairly young, healthy, of an average age of 46, and part of a 2,500-person sub-set being followed since the terrorist attacks. Mary Ann McLaughlin, associate professor of medicine, is the study’s lead investigator.

. Of those studied, 19 high-exposure workers suffered from significantly worse endothelial dysfunction, a condition in which the membrane that lines the inside of heart and blood vessels works improperly, versus later responders, according to the study and a Mount Sinai press release. MRI scans revealed that patients with the most intense exposure revealed cholesterol plaques in their blood, indicating signs of increased blood vessel growth.

“This study defines physiologic change associated with greater exposure to the dust cloud at the WTC site,” said McLaughlin. “We are currently evaluating other predictors of cardiovascular risk in this population to gain a better understanding of the impact of particulate matter exposure on cardiovascular health,” reported the Insurance Journal.

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