Working around high levels of pesticides may translate into a high risk for heart trouble later, a new study suggests.

That was the case for a group of Japanese-American men in Hawaii who were followed for more than three decades. Compared to men who had not worked around pesticides, those who had the greatest exposure had a 45% higher risk for heart disease or stroke, researchers found.

“This study emphasizes the importance of using personal protective equipment during exposure to pesticides on the job and the importance of documenting occupational exposure to pesticides in medical records, as well as controlling standard heart disease risk factors,” said study co-author Dr. Beatriz Rodriguez.

She’s a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The findings stem from data on more than 6,000 men on Oahu who took part in the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program. Because only men of Japanese descent were involved, the findings may not apply to women or other populations, the researchers noted.

Since pesticides have a long half-life, their effects on health may show up years after exposure. In this case, the greatest effects were seen within 10 years of exposure.

“After following the men for 34 years, the link between being exposed to pesticides at work and heart disease and stroke was no longer significant,” Rodriguez said in a news release. “This was probably because other factors tied to aging became more important, masking the possible relation of pesticides and cardiovascular disease later in life.”

Researchers found no significant link between exposure to low to moderate amounts of pesticides and the risk of heart disease or stroke.

The report was published online Sept. 25 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

More information

For more on heart disease and stroke, visit the American Heart Association.

Source: HealthDay

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