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Air Pollution increasing incidence of stroke in North India: Experts

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Air Pollution increasing incidence of stroke in North India: Experts


Air Pollution increasing incidence of stroke in North India: Experts&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Individuals living in more heavily air-polluted areas had a higher risk of death in the 12 months after ischemic stroke

  • Several studies are looking at the smaller PM2.5 and how it can get into our blood through our lungs

  • A series of epidemiological studies and researches have shown a clear link between air pollution and stroke

New Delhi: A report analyzing the global air quality prepared by the US-based Health Effects Institute has recently categorized air pollution as the largest risk factor for death in Indians. At 83.2 μg/cubic metre, India faces the highest per capita pollution exposure in the world. While the association between air pollution and increased risk of cancers, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases are well known, not many people are aware that exposure to toxic air pollutants also increases the risk of stroke.

Health experts said the hormonal level of the body increases due to the sudden dip in temperature along with low AQI in northern states, and those people who are getting accustomed to such weather conditions for a prolonged period of time face problems, becoming prone to diseases like stroke, brain bleeding, and heart attack.

How air pollution increases stroke risk

The known risk factors for stroke include hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and atherosclerosis. However, stroke is also associated with air pollution and lowering the level of exposure could considerably reduce the associated health burden without relying on behavioural change. Short-term exposure to air pollution can increase your immediate risk of having a stroke if you have existing risk factors, such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (AF) or diabetes.

There is ongoing research into exactly what air pollution does to your body that increases the risk of stroke. Much of the research is looking at the smaller PM2.5 and how it can get into our blood through our lungs.

“Although the relative risk is small at an individual level, the ubiquitous nature of exposure to air pollution means that the absolute risk at a population level is on a par with “traditional” risk factors for cardiovascular disease. People living in more heavily air-polluted areas had a higher risk of death in the 12 months after ischemic stroke. Fine particles (PM1 and PM2.5) appeared to be more harmful than other pollutants for stroke patients. Healthcare professionals will have an important role in promoting the awareness of this evidence, not just to improve the care of individual patients, but also to place pressure on policymakers for air pollution to be a public health priority,” said Dr Yash Javeri, Head, Critical Care Medicine, Anesthesia & Emergency, Regency Super Speciality Hospital.

Air pollution continues to be a major yet understated contributor to this rising burden of premature death and disability. The association between stroke and air pollution was not well understood 30 years back. However, in recent decades a series of epidemiological studies and researches have shown a clear link.

Suspended particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide carbon monoxide were found to be the main culprits in inducing an acute pathogenetic process in the cerebrovascular system. During lockdown, we all have clearly seen that there was no air pollution and water pollution, which means that man is creating these issues and man can only stop them. We need air pollution to be recognised more widely as one of the most important modifiable risk factors for the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Governments at different levels need to work to bring about behavioural changes by promoting cycling, walking and public transport as well as cleaner fuels to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions from personal vehicles. At the same time, individuals must also exercise caution and reduce their exposure to harmful toxicants in the air. Limiting time spent outdoors during highly polluted periods, avoiding outdoor exercise in the polluted winter air, wearing masks when stepping out and reducing the usage of personal motorised vehicles are some such interventions,” added Padmashree Dr (Prof) VS Mehta, Chairman Neuroscience, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.

The latest study has suggested that people who have a heart ailment and are living in areas where air pollution is worst, they are significantly more likely to have a stroke. This happens because when such a person, who has a heart rhythm disorder, has an exposure to fine airborne particulate matter, known as PM2.5, then he or she breathes it into the lungs and enters the bloodstream where it can trigger heart events like a stroke.

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