Cleaner air, lesser strokes
Polluted air is bad for the lungs, causing a range of respiratory diseases. Pollutant chemicals are also suspected to be carcinogens, linked to a variety of cancers. It now transpires that air pollution is a major contributor for strokes leading to death and disability. And it is the developing and middle-income countries like India that are bearing the brunt of this health threat. A new study, published in Lancet Neurology, shows that in Asia and Africa, almost a fifth of stroke burden can be attributed to household air pollution, while a similar percentage can be blamed on ambient air pollution in Chi and India. Overall, air pollution has been identified as the third largest cause for strokes, accounting for almost 30 percent of the global stroke burden. Experts have pointed out this is for the first time that air pollution has been marked as a cause for strokes, for which there are no ideal treatment options. However, prevention is the best solution, and the landmark alysis based on a huge database shows that air pollution is a ‘modifiable factor’. This means that efforts by the government as well as the people can make a significant difference in reducing the hazard. About 15 million people suffer strokes worldwide every year, of which nearly 6 million die and 5 million are left disabled; in India, the number of stroke victims every year has been estimated at more than 1.2 million, making it the leading cause of death and disability. Apart from reducing air pollution, steps to cut down smoking and sugar intake, as well as eating and exercising well, can result in significant mitigation of stroke risk, says the study.