Chronic stress and cardiovascular disease risk were explored in a predominately middle-aged adult population exposed to elevated lead levels in this cross-sectional study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from the period 2007-2010. Elevated lead exposure was defined using the epidemiological threshold of a blood lead level (BLL) > 5 μg/dL as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Allostatic load (AL), a measure of chronic stress, was operationalized using 10 clinical markers. The geometric mean values for clinical cardiovascular disease risk markers of interest (a) Gamma glutamyl-transferase (GGT) (a marker of oxidative stress), and (b) non-HDL cholesterol (non-HDL-c) (a marker of cardiovascular disease risk) were explored among lead-exposed and less lead-exposed individuals with differential chronic stress (AL) levels. Associations between AL and GGT/non-HDL-C were analyzed using linear regression models. The likelihood of increased clinical markers in lead-exposed individuals with high compared to low AL was explored using binary logistic regression models. In analyzing lead-exposed as compared to less lead-exposed populations, the geometric mean of the variables of interest showed significant elevations among lead-exposed individuals as compared to less lead-exposed individuals. Simple linear regression revealed that AL was positively associated with the variables of interest among the lead-exposed. In binary logistic regression among the lead-exposed, those with high AL, as compared to those with low AL, had significantly higher odds of having elevated non-HDL-C. This study submits that those exposed to lead with increasing AL may experience adverse cardiovascular health outcomes.
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