This finding came from a cohort study recently published in the journal Hypertension. In it, researchers found that the incidence of high blood pressure was higher in people who were exposed to low doses of radiation for long periods.
Ionizing radiation is a form of radiation that can break apart and damage molecules. This emission is often released in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles.
Light, sound and radio waves are all examples of radiation. But these forms of radiation cannot pass through solid objects. Ionizing radiation, on the other hand, can penetrate the human body and enable images of bones and organs to be printed.
For this reason, ionizing radiation is an invaluable tool in the field of medicine. Medical professionals make extensive use of ionizing radiation in diagnostic exams to detect abnormalities, such as tumors, and possible health issues.
In addition, the sterilizing effects of ionizing radiation are useful for keeping medical tools free from germs that can cause disease or contamination. This ensures that medical equipment are safe and can be relied upon.
Ionizing radiation can also be found in multiple natural sources. For instance, there are more than 60 radioactive materials (radionuclides) found in soil, water and air.
Radon, in particular, is a natural gas that emanates from rocks and soil. It is one of the major sources of radiation in nature. But unlike most natural radioactive materials, radon releases higher levels of radiation that pose serious health risks.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Ionizing radiation disrupts the atoms and molecules in our bodies. For this reason, experts warn against the extensive use of ionizing radiation regardless of dose. Multiple studies have found that ionizing radiation poses certain health hazards despite its beneficial applications.
A team of researchers from the Southern Urals Biophysics Institute (SUBI) in Russia found that prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure.
According to lead author Tamara Azizova, radiation exposure is often associated with cancer development. However, the link between radiation exposure and heart disease is yet to be fully explored.
To understand this relationship, the team examined the health records of 22,377 employees hired between 1948 and 1982 by Mayak Production Association (PA), the first large-scale nuclear enterprise in Russia.
The employees worked an average of 18 years at the nuclear facility. All of them received comprehensive health exams and routine health checkups throughout their employment.
Upon analysis of their health records, the team discovered that 8,425 employees had blood pressure readings that hit 140/90 or higher. This is considered high blood pressure as per the American Hear Association's guidelines.
Furthermore, the team noted that the incidence of high blood pressure among the workers was higher than that found among Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. (Related: Massive Fukushima radiation cover-up as government-funded scientists now claim radiation won't hurt you.)
On the other hand, the team found that workers of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant who started clean-up operations in the area following the explosion in 1986 still had the highest incidence of high blood pressure.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that prolonged exposure to low-dose radiation increases the risk of high blood pressure.
The findings also underscore the fact that even low doses of ionizing radiation can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Learn more about the impact of radiation on human health at RadiationScience.com.