Smog increases risk of stroke.

Smog increases risk of stroke.

The Hidden Dangers of Air Pollution: A Risk to Stroke

Air Pollution

We all know that air pollution is harmful to our health, but now researchers have found that even short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can significantly increase the risk of having a stroke. In a review of 110 studies conducted across Asia, Europe, and the Americas, researchers discovered that depending on the specific pollutant, stroke risk rose anywhere from 5% to 28% within less than a week after exposure to high levels of air pollution. This study also revealed a notable increase in the risk of dying from a stroke within a week following air pollution exposure, ranging from 2% to a staggering 60%, depending on the pollutant studied.

Dr. Ahmad Toubasi, a researcher from the University of Jordan, explains, “The associated stroke risk depends on the pollution, as some are more harmful than others.” In the Sept. 27 issue of Neurology, the researchers noted that stroke accounts for roughly 5 million deaths worldwide every year, making this study’s findings all the more alarming.

The review included studies that explored the potential link between stroke risk and exposure to several key pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. Collectively, these studies involved over 18 million cases of ischemic stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off or compromised.

Results showed that exposure to nitrogen dioxide was correlated with a 28% increased short-term stroke risk and a 33% increased risk of dying due to stroke. Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and high ozone levels were also found to be linked to a 26%, 15%, and 5% increase in stroke risk, respectively. Notably, exposure to sulfur dioxide resulted in a particularly high short-term risk of dying from a stroke, with a 60% increase.

The review also examined the relative risk associated with different sizes of air pollution particles. Exposure to PM1 particles, which are less than a single micron in diameter and invisible to the naked eye, was linked to a 9% increase in stroke risk. PM2.5 exposure, on the other hand, was associated with a 15% increase in stroke risk and a 9% increase in the risk of dying from a stroke. Exposure to PM10 particles, such as dust from roads and construction sites, triggered a 14% rise in stroke risk and a 2% increase in stroke death.

Overall, the study found that the more significant the exposure to various pollutants, the greater the increase in stroke risk. But how does air pollution actually raise the risk of strokes? Researchers suggest that pollution harms the body by increasing blood pressure and clot risk, undermining the integrity of blood vessel linings, and increasing the risk of irregular heartbeats.

Fortunately, there are measures individuals can take to lower their own risk. Dr. Jesus Araujo from UCLA advises people with cardiovascular risk factors to be aware of the risks of air pollution, even on a short-term basis. When air pollution levels rise, patients should reduce the amount of time they spend outdoors. Additionally, wearing an N95 mask can help filter out some pollutant particles while outdoors. For those indoors, it’s essential to be aware of indoor air quality. Contrary to popular belief, indoor air quality may not always be better. Accessible air quality sensors and air purifiers can improve indoor air quality. It’s also crucial to ensure clean filters are available for centralized heating and AC systems.

The findings of this study shed light on the hidden dangers of air pollution and its impact on stroke risk. By raising awareness and taking proactive measures to reduce exposure, individuals can protect their health and potentially prevent strokes. So let’s breathe easy, take action, and ensure a healthier future.


What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain cells of oxygenn and nutrients. Strokes can be caused by blocked or burst blood vessels. Symptoms of a stroke may include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, sudden severe headache, and difficulty walking or maintaining balance. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, it is critical to call emergency services immediately.

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