Researchers from the Collaborative said the effects of air pollution on aging are also reflected in nutrition. Changes in agricultural practices and the food industry in terms of production, processing and distribution have changed how individuals consume food. Inflammatory nutrients are introduced into the food supply when agribusiness produces crops using confined feeding, pesticides and product processing.
Valuable nutrients, research reports, are lost in processing, unhealthy chemicals are added to food and such products take on a pro-inflammatory quality. After production, the newly-produced food undergoes a long shelf-life and is subject to long-distance shipping, placing such nutrition at risk for poisoning and spoilage.
Additionally, as a result, individuals receive food with high intakes of refined carbohydrates and excess saturated fats, without enough whole grains, fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids. Such fats and carbohydrates are quickly absorbed in the bloodstream and increase blood glucose and insulin, placing a consumer at risk for developing diabetes. Both fats and carbohydrates are chief causes of nutrient concerns for pro-inflammatory and excessive oxidative stress, researchers say.
Refined carbohydrates, often sugar sweeteners, make up 20 percent of calories of an average diet. High intakes of omega-6 fatty acid-laden vegetable oils in processed food, contribute to today’s high ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids — all leading to disease.
Inflammation and oxidative stress are responsible for the development of chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by encouraging the presence of free radicals in human body cells with the use of oxygen to metabolize food and create energy.
Exposure to outdoor pollution, chemicals, pesticides, solvents, heavy metals such as lead, iron and manganese and radiation can also cause excess oxidative stress.
Additionally, smoking, never having married, and low social and emotional support are associated with high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the Collaborative reports. Meanwhile, exposure to organic solvents such as trichloroethylene and n-hexane cause an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological illnesses.
Connections to Gender and Chronic Disease
The National Center for Health Statistics found that cardiovascular disease kills more women than men. The center reports that, from 1975 to 2007, heart disease deaths figures mostly dropped for men while they fluctuated and rose for women in that same time period before plunging definitively.
Namely, heart disease deaths were lower for women than for men with roughly 450,000 deaths for the former against roughly 490,000 deaths for the latter respectively in 1975 and roughly 480,000 deaths for the former against roughly 500,000 deaths for the latter consecutively in 1980.
By 1985, women, for the first time, surpassed men in the number of heart disease deaths with roughly 490,000 for the former and 480,000 for the latter.
While both genders experienced a drop in 1990, the number of heart disease deaths continued to climb for women while they decreased for men until the year 2000.
Between 2000 and 2007, the number of such deaths dropped for both men and women, even though women still had higher incidences of heart disease than men during that time period.
“Heart disease kills more women than men,” Sykes said. “Heart disease is the number one killer. It affects men and women of all ages.”
According to biomedical research under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 83 million people in the nation live with some form of heart disease and 800,000 die per year from the affliction. Heart disease kills more women than the other aforementioned 10 causes of death.
In discussing the effect of heart disease on both genders in every age group, Sykes cited figures about this influence between 1988 and 1994.
For each age range described in biomedical research — including ages 20 to 24, ages 25 to 34, ages 35 to 44 and ages 45 to 54 — women had a slightly lower risk of developing heart disease than men and the chances increased with age for both genders.
The risk for heart disease and death were not roughly equal for both genders until ages 55 and 64 with 51 percent for men and 48.1 percent for women and ages 65 and 74 with 65.2 for both men and women.
By age 75 and over, women exceeded men for risk of heart disease and death with 70.7 percent for men and 79 percent for women.
With respect to the other causes of death, an October 2007 EPA Fact Sheet reported that environmental pollution especially affected women, particularly those over age 50.
Specifically, air pollutants, cleaning agents, pesticides and childhood lead exposure resulting in post-menopausal health problems were prime factors in lung disease and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, COPD and asthma more in women over age 50 than in men.
During menopause, the 2007 EPA fact sheet reported, bone storage breaks down and releases lead into the bloodstream. Among older women, blood lead levels may be up to 25 to 30 percent higher than before menopause.
On top of this, the use of hormone therapy for menopause increases one’s risk of developing asthma. In 2003, more than 63,000 women died from COPD, compared with 59,000 men. Additionally, diabetes is a major problem for women, especially for African-Americans and American Indian/Alaskan Natives, the EPA fact sheet stated.
Research on lead exposure, bone health, menopause, asthma, diabetes, COPD and heart disease can be found at the National Research Center for Women and Families’ website at http://www.center4research.org.