Health Topics

Increase in stroke cases linked to contamination

Recent studies show that high pollution in the environment increases the risk of having a stroke

According to the Spanish Society of Neurology (in Spanish, SEN), 30% of the strokes that occur each year are attributable to air pollution and advises that reducing environmental pollution is a step to take in order to curb the increase in cases of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. According to international studies conducted over the past four years, the unique sensitivity of the brain to environmental pollution can lead to a stroke or cerebral hemorrhage.

These investigations also show that the harmful effects of pollution are not only local. Estimates show that 12% of premature deaths related to environmental pollution are caused by pollutants emitted in another region of the world.

The values ​​of environmental pollution are determined by measuring the concentration of different types of gas in cities. Gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5 (suspended particles less than 2.5 microns) are markers of environmental pollution. Most of these gases are produced by different types of human activity such as the use of means of transport or industrial activity. Nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5, for example, are generated mostly by diesel engines.

Research in this field not only warns about this problem but also point to some preventive measures that can be carried out at the individual level. For example, one of the studies states that the association between suspended particles and stroke risk can be reduced by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Other actions that can begin to alleviate the problem of pollution are: saving energy, increasing the consumption of local produce, accelerating the change from combustion engines to electric or using public transport.

Even so, the ultimate solution to this global health problem lies in the creation of global environmental health policies — especially those aimed at reducing pollution derived from industrial activity, agriculture, and transport.

Author: Xabier Urra, Neurologist, Neurology Department