We’ve had clear evidence for decades that air pollution is bad for your health, specifically your lungs and heart. The data show air pollution increases your risk of asthma, COPD and pneumonia. But a new systematic review unveils another serious risk: stroke.
The review, from researchers at the University of Edinburgh, asks whether exposure to air pollution increases the risk of having a stroke immediately and up to seven days following the exposure.
For the meta-analysis, researchers combined data from 94 studies that included a total of 6.2 million hospital admissions in 28 countries. And they found a clear connection. Daily increases in pollution from nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter led to more hospital admission for strokes and led more patients to die of strokes. The strongest associations occurred on the day when pollution levels spiked, but the spikes lasted for several days. The only air pollutant that did not increase the stroke risk is ozone.
The analysis also found that, although there is a connection between air pollution and stroke across the globe, the risks are higher in low- and middle-income countries. They hypothesize this is most likely because lower-income countries have less cohesive policies on air quality and are less able to monitor disease as higher-income countries.
The take-home message here is clear. Air pollution is bad for your health, and specifically increases your risk of suffering from a stroke. As an individual, there is not much you can do to avoid this risk, other than staying inside. The best solutions, researchers concluded, is for cities and countries to implement policies that limit air pollution.