Air pollution today is at an all-time high. It is the result of solid and liquid particles and harmful gaseous substances that are suspended in air. Most of these pollutants come from the burning of fossil fuels, industrial waste, agricultural activities and mining. An alarming increase in vehicular traffic and the exhaust from it is also a major cause of increasing pollution. Traffic exhaust air pollutants contain carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, fine dust and soot and benzene. These are extremely harmful for health and can cause severe health complications that can result in death. Some of the health risks are respiratory ailments like asthma, heart diseases, cardiovascular disorders, stroke and even some cancers.
Now a new joint study at Karolinska Institutet, University of Gothenburg, Umeå University, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute and SLB analysis-Environmental unit in Stockholm say that high levels of traffic exhaust even at one’s residence increases the risk of stroke. And, this is true for even low-pollution environments. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives published this study.
Traffic exhaust emission responsible for stroke: Study
According to researchers, ‘it is the black carbon from traffic exhaust emission that increases the risk for stroke, and not particulate matter from other sources’. Black carbon is basically the sooty black material that is emitted by gas and diesel engines. They say that this study identifies local traffic exhaust as a risk factor for stroke. For the purpose of the study, researchers followed around 115,000 middle-aged healthy individuals from Gothenburg, Stockholm and Umeå over a period of 20 years. They saw that around 3,100 participants suffered a stroke during this time.
Researchers relied on dispersion models and Swedish emission inventories to estimate how much different local emission sources contributed to particulate matter and black carbon at specific addresses in these cities. They took into consideration traffic exhaust, road wear and residential heating, among others, in their analysis.
Researchers blame black carbon from traffic exhaust for stroke
They saw that for every 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of black carbon from traffic exhaust, the risk of stroke went up by 4 per cent. However, the same was not the case with black carbon emitted from residential heating, particulate matter in general, inhalable
particles with a diametre of 10 micrometres or less (PM10) or from particles with a diametre of 2.5 micrometres or less (PM2.5). They say that the annual averages of PM2.5 ranged from 5.8 to 9.2 μg/m3. This is lower than current European Union standard of 25 μg/m3.
Researchers rue the fact that there is currently no specific metric for black carbon in EU, which includes it as part of its broader regulation of particulate matter. But they add that, ‘black carbon from traffic exhaust could be an important measure to consider when assessing air quality and health consequences’.
Other causes of stroke
Some of the major causes of stroke are an unhealthy diet that contains a lot of trans fats and saturated fats. Foods high in salt and cholesterol also increase your risk. A sedentary lifestyle, alcohol consumption and use of tobacco are a few other factors that can make you more susceptible. You can control all these things with a few modifications in your lifestyle.
However, there are a few other factors that may be beyond your control. Sex is one such factor. Women are more prone to strokes than men. Age also plays a role here and you are more likely to suffer from stroke as you grow older. Genes are also responsible and if hypertension runs in the family, it increases your risk too.
Stroke can also be caused by an underlying health condition. High blood pressure, hart disorders, diabetes, high cholesterol and sickle cell disease may also lead to a stroke.
If you experience or witness another person experience the symptoms of a stroke, you must emergency medical assistance. Clot-busting medication, that can lessen the severity of damage, can only be given in the first hours of a stroke. Other than this, your doctor may recommend a mechanical thrombectomy to pull clot out, surgery or the implant of stents. Other than this, there are various medications like anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, statins, blood pressure drugs and tissue plasminogen activator to name a few.
Early treatment is essential. It can not only save lives but also bring down your risk for complications and disability significantly.
Prevention of stroke
It is true that some things are out of your hands. But you can control some of the associated risk factors and easily bring down your risk of and even prevent a stroke. All you have to do is try and live a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking and keep away from alcohol. Excessive intake of alcohol can increase your blood pressure, and this may cause a stroke. Try to maintain a healthy body weight since obesity significantly increases your risk. Have a lot of fruits and vegetables and stay away from junk food. Regular exercise will also help you to bring down your risk. So, take out your walking shoes, join a gym or just go for a walk.
And, the most important thing to do is to go in for regular checkups. Take care of your health. If you have any disorders, get it treated immediately. Take your medications on time. All this will go a long way in helping you bring down your risk of a stroke.
Published : November 1, 2019 6:27 pm | Updated:November 2, 2019 11:03 am