Air Quality Tied to Risk of Stroke

By: Bel Marra Health | Heart Attack and Stroke | Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 01:05 AM

Air Quality Tied to Risk of StrokeStepping out of the house in the morning can be quite refreshing when a fresh morning breeze hits your face. Unfortunately, this fresh morning breeze can only be observed in limited places around the planet. Extensive industrialization has resulted in poor quality of air, which has accumulated tiny particles that could affect heart health and increase the risk for a stroke. Recent research studies have determined that the current quality of outdoor air have exceeded the acceptable levels that are deemed safe for heart health. The levels of pollutants in the air were determined to be highest in urban areas, and yes—the air in rural areas are now also polluted.

According to the latest statement of the American Health Association (AHA) published in the journal Circulation, the accumulation of scientific and medical research efforts have discovered the actual mechanism by which particulate matter in the air affects heart health. Very fine particles of sizes less than 2.5 microns are present in the polluted atmosphere. The presence of these particles has been strongly associated with an increase in the incidence of vascular disorders, including heart attack and stroke. The general heart health of exposed individuals are also at risk to air particles, resulting in abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia, and other deleterious vascular conditions such as heart failure. An alarming feature of the AHA statement is that heart failure and stroke can occur within hours or days in an individual with poor heart health.

The AHA heart health statement also describes smaller particulate matter (< 0.1 microns in size) in polluted air, which is actually present in gaseous fumes such as those emitted by automobiles during heavy traffic. These ultrafine materials can easily enter the vascular system of the human body and induce the tightening of blood vessels. This constriction can significantly lessen the amount of oxygen that is transported to the rest of the body, with an effect similar to that of a stroke, which is the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, preventing the circulation of oxygenated blood to the entire body.

Particulate matter in polluted air has also been reported to increase the systemic blood pressure of exposed individuals, further increasing the risk for vascular disorders and stroke. Additional effects of air pollution include changes in the capacity for blood clotting, which is the major feature of a stroke, and modifications in coagulant protein, thrombin. Air pollution has also been reported to decrease the body’s capacity to elicit an immune response to foreign particles, which occur at sites of infection or injury through the vascular system. Vascular tissues are thus more prone to inflammation, which in turn can result in the deterioration of heart health and more importantly, increasing the risk for stroke.

The AHA statement also emphasized the negative effect of particulate matter on the development of atherosclerosis, or the accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of vascular tissues. The continuous deposition of fats can impede blood circulation, resulting in the degeneration of heart health. Furthermore, the blockage in the vascular tissues can also induce the occurrence of a stroke.

Air pollution can affect any individual, yet it is also important to know that there are certain groups that are prone to the negative effects of particulate matter on heart health and stroke risk. According to the AHA statement, young children and the elderly have a greater risk of developing vascular diseases from exposure to polluted air. In the case of children, air pollution can prevent further development of vascular and immune tissues, thus inhibiting these young individuals from reaching their best heart health condition when they reach adulthood. On the other hand, the elderly have limited capacity to fight foreign particles in their bodies, thus increasing their chances of suffering from a stroke, developing vascular disorders, and ultimately destroying their heart health.

Stepping out of the house in the morning can be quite refreshing when a fresh morning breeze hits your face. Unfortunately, this fresh morning breeze can only be observed in limited places around the planet. Extensive industrialization has resulted in poor quality of air, which has accumulated tiny particles that could affect heart health and increase the risk for a stroke. Recent research studies have determined that the current quality of outdoor air have exceeded the acceptable levels that are deemed safe for heart health. The levels of pollutants in the air were determined to be highest in urban areas, and yes—the air in rural areas are now also polluted.

According to the latest statement of the American Health Association (AHA) published in the journal Circulation, the accumulation of scientific and medical research efforts have discovered the actual mechanism by which particulate matter in the air affects heart health. Very fine particles of sizes less than 2.5 microns are present in the polluted atmosphere. The presence of these particles has been strongly associated with an increase in the incidence of vascular disorders, including heart attack and stroke. The general heart health of exposed individuals are also at risk to air particles, resulting in abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia, and other deleterious vascular conditions such as heart failure. An alarming feature of the AHA statement is that heart failure and stroke can occur within hours or days in an individual with poor heart health.

The AHA heart health statement also describes smaller particulate matter (< 0.1 microns in size) in polluted air, which is actually present in gaseous fumes such as those emitted by automobiles during heavy traffic. These ultrafine materials can easily enter the vascular system of the human body and induce the tightening of blood vessels. This constriction can significantly lessen the amount of oxygen that is transported to the rest of the body, with an effect similar to that of a stroke, which is the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, preventing the circulation of oxygenated blood to the entire body.

Particulate matter in polluted air has also been reported to increase the systemic blood pressure of exposed individuals, further increasing the risk for vascular disorders and stroke. Additional effects of air pollution include changes in the capacity for blood clotting, which is the major feature of a stroke, and modifications in coagulant protein, thrombin. Air pollution has also been reported to decrease the body’s capacity to elicit an immune response to foreign particles, which occur at sites of infection or injury through the vascular system. Vascular tissues are thus more prone to inflammation, which in turn can result in the deterioration of heart health and more importantly, increasing the risk for stroke.

The AHA statement also emphasized the negative effect of particulate matter on the development of atherosclerosis, or the accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of vascular tissues. The continuous deposition of fats can impede blood circulation, resulting in the degeneration of heart health. Furthermore, the blockage in the vascular tissues can also induce the occurrence of a stroke.

Air pollution can affect any individual, yet it is also important to know that there are certain groups that are prone to the negative effects of particulate matter on heart health and stroke risk. According to the AHA statement, young children and the elderly have a greater risk of developing vascular diseases from exposure to polluted air. In the case of children, air pollution can prevent further development of vascular and immune tissues, thus inhibiting these young individuals from reaching their best heart health condition when they reach adulthood. On the other hand, the elderly have limited capacity to fight foreign particles in their bodies, thus increasing their chances of suffering from a stroke, developing vascular disorders, and ultimately destroying their heart health.

Related reading: Air pollution a risk factor for heart disease and related death


Popular Stories

Cart Items

Checkout