50 Shades of Pollution

Recent alarming findings suggest that harm to lungs, heart and the brain caused from air pollution has been misunderstood. Air pollution has now, for the first time, become a major contributor to stroke, worldwide.

In a recent survey of global risk factors for stroke, air pollution, in the form of fine particulate matter came out seventh in terms of impact on healthy lifespan. Household air pollution such as burning solid fuels came out eighth. It was not expected that the results of such a study would be to this magnitude or to have increased over the last two decades. The study was carried out by Valery Feiggin, director of The National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neuroscience at Auckland University of Technology. He said their study was the first to demonstrate an increasingly hazardous effect of air pollution on stroke worldwide.

Scientists in the field say that these alarming findings published in the Lancet Neurology are underestimated.

Worldwide about fifteen million people a year suffer a stroke, nearly six million of these do not survive and five million of us are left with disabilities such as loss of speech, sight, paralysis and the invisible difficulties that we know only too well. The study highlighted that the most important contributor worldwide are high blood pressure, a diet low in fruit, obesity, high salt intake, smoking and not eating enough vegetables. I personally question why AF and lack of exercise do not feature in here but who am I to question?

It was identified however that people can do a lot to reduce their risk of stroke so exercise fell into that but I feel awareness of AF etc. should fall heavily into here, what do you feel?

Apparently, three quarters of global stroke cases are linked to lifestyle yet I know mine was not and many other survivors I know of also were not linked so I have to question that figure. I might sound difficult but that truly is not my intention. It is just that I was very fit and healthy, I ate a healthy diet, I was slim and I lived in the country enjoying fresh air riding horses out in the fresh air. I have never smoked either.

Environmental air pollution comes from vehicles, industry, power plants, fossil fuels and burning biomass all being a major source in developing countries. It is thought to increase the risk of stroke because it hardens the arteries in the brain, this then raises blood pressure and causes blood to thicken the result being a greater risk of blood clots in the brain.

As one of the greatest risks of air pollution is car emissions staying away from streets at rush hour. or avoiding busy roads can help reduce your exposure to air pollution. On days’ air pollution is high you should stay inside as much as possible.

A study at the College of Physicians blamed air pollution for at least 40,900 deaths a year. Stephen Holgate, professor of Immunopharmacology at Southampton University, points out it has long been understood that pollution is a factor of heart disease but the findings now show it to be a major risk factor to stroke too. A third of stroke cases were found to be linked to pollution. Although it was known that pollution damaged, lungs, heart and brain it was hugely underestimated. They conclude air pollution is not only a problem in our big cities it is a global problem too. With ceaseless air streams across oceans and continents, we have to remember what happens in Beijing matters in Berlin and here in Britain too.




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