Air pollution among the top 10 stroke risks, study says

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  • According to a study, one of the major contributors to death and disability caused by stroke is air pollution
  • 90.5% of stroke burden is attributed to “modifiable factors” like human behavior
  • The government can do something to alter “modifiable factors” of stroke burden

Air pollution is a major contributor to death and disability caused by stroke, according to a health journal published on Friday.

It’s the first time that air pollution, especially in developing countries, was pointed out as a primary contributor. In an article written by AFP and published on GMA News Online, air pollution was ranked among the top 10 causes of stroke, alongside much popular risks such as high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.

In the study published in The Lancet Neurology, study co-author Valery Feigin of New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology said they were able to estimate 17 risk factors associated with the disease burden of stroke across 188 countries.

They added the high proportion of stroke burden in the study is “unexpected and striking”.

The international research team analyzed data from different studies, reports, and official statistics. They used these data to create mathematical model estimating stroke risk covering 1990 to 2013 in 188 different countries.

The team said they were the first to study and quantify the stroke burden in the world.

In the study, researchers found out that 90.5 percent of the stroke burden was attributable to “modifiable factors.” These factors are mainly behaviors such as eating too much, smoking, and lack of exercise. The study pointed out that stroke burden is also associated with health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

In a written article by Marie Ellis of Medical News Today, the team found out that the 10 leading stroke risk factors around the world were high blood pressure, low intake of fruits, extreme body mass index (BMI), high sodium intake, smoking, low vegetable consumption, ambient air pollution, pollution in households, low level grain intake, and high blood sugar.

Feigin advised that control of lifestyle factors “could prevent about three-quarter of strokes worldwide or equivalent to 75%”.

But according to the study, air pollution is listed as a “modifiable factor”; meaning that people and governments can do something to alter it citing the passing of legislation.

Air pollution can boost stroke risk through raising blood pressure, hardening blood vessels, or causing them to become blocked while sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption is the fastest-growing stroke risk. The researchers said that air pollution is a global problem and they are alarmed that this problem seems to have been underestimated, Ian Sample of  The Guardian wrote.