If you live in an area that has noise pollution, you may be at risk of a stroke. This new research is the first of its kind to measure noise pollution factors and analyze them in relation to stroke severity.
Levels of high environmental noise that people are subjected to in large cities have now been shown to have a connection to both the severity and consequences of an ischemic stroke. The study was performed by researchers from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and doctors from Hospital del Mar, together with researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), CIBER in Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), and Brown University in the United States.
This new research published in the journal Environmental Research found that people living in noisier areas had an increased risk of stroke by 30%. In contrast, it was shown that those who live close to green areas brought the risk down by almost 25%. The same researchers have already revealed that high levels of air pollution from diesel engines increase the risk of suffering atherothrombotic stroke by 20%.
For the study, researchers analyzed nearly 3,000 ischemic stroke patients treated at Hospital del Mar between 2005 and 2014. They took note of the patient’s exposure to noise levels, air pollution, and exposure to green areas. To accomplish this, they used data from the Cartographic Institute of Catalonia as well as models to analyze atmospheric pollutant levels, the noise map of Barcelona, and satellite images to define areas with vegetation.
More Green Space
“We have observed a gradient: the more green spaces, the less serious the stroke. And the more noise, the more serious it is. This suggests that factors other than those traditionally associated with stroke may play an independent role in the condition,” said Dr. Rosa María Vivanco, from the IMIM’s Neurovascular Research Group and first author of the study.
Researchers analyzed the effects of stroke on neurological deficits, such as speech impairment and mobility, using the NIHSS (National Institute of Health Stroke Scale). The severity of a stroke depends on various factors. This can include the extent of the brain injury, the specific area of brain affected, the subtype of stroke, the existence of associated risk factors (diabetes, atrial fibrillation, atherosclerotic load), and many other factors.
Another one of the study’s authors, Dr. Xavier Basagaña, who is a researcher at ISGlobal, stresses that “exposure to green spaces can benefit human health through various mechanisms. For example, it can reduce stress, encourage social interaction, and increase levels of physical activity.”
Dr. Gregory A. Wellenius from the Epidemiology Department at Brown University and final author of the study explains, “Previous studies have demonstrated that living in places with high levels of air pollution or noise, or with fewer green areas, exposes the population to a higher risk of suffering an ischemic stroke. This work broadens our knowledge in this field, showing that the place where we live affects not only the risk of suffering a stroke, but also its severity if it occurs.”
Although this is a large step in the right direction of finding a link between noise pollution and stroke, researchers warn that one of the limitations of the work was the lack of variability in pollutant concentrations to which the study population is exposed. This made it difficult to draw conclusions, so they have emphasized that more studies need to be done in this field.
However, the fact that there has been a link to green spaces and urban noise to the severity of stroke should be taken into account by political and city health planners. If you live in a city, try to take time to visit local parks and enjoy the green spaces as much as possible.