Air Pollution Linked to Increased Risk of Stroke, Anxiety – Dr. Andrew Weil

Air Pollution Linked to Increased Risk of Stroke, Anxiety – Dr. Andrew Weil

We all know that air pollution can lead to respiratory problems. But, do we know that the adverse effects of air pollution are not just restricted to the respiratory system? According to Dr. Andrew Weil, air pollution is also associated with increased chances of stroke or heart attack.

This has been reported recently by a review of around 103 studies. The review study analyzed global data of nearly 6.2 million hospitalizations due to stroke. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found a clear relation between elevated air pollution levels and risk of stroke. The higher the level of air pollution, the greater the likelihood of getting a stroke and hence, more deaths.

The one type of pollution that does not cause stroke is ozone. Dr. Weil says that the answer to the question “How does pollution cause strokes” still remains a mystery. Some earlier researches suggest pollution can cause constriction in the blood vessels, increase the blood pressure and up the risk for blood clots.

According to a scientific statement, issued in 2010, it was acknowledged by the American Heart Association (AHA) that the risk of heart attack and stroke rise when exposed to air pollution for short durations of time; particularly in people, who are more prone to having such conditions like the elderly and those with some existing medical conditions. AHA has recommended that people, who are at a risk for heart condition should not spend much time outdoors in the pollution as their problems could aggravate.


In another study, around 71,000 women of the age range – 57 to 85 years – were studied to understand the link between pollution and anxiety. The researchers collected information from the women about their symptoms of anxiety, asking them whether they considered themselves as worriers or they had some fears or phobias. Results indicated that 15% of women showed symptoms of anxiety, but they did not have anxiety disorders.

To determine the relation between anxiety and air pollution, the researchers studied the exposure of women to fine-particle pollution on the basis of where they lived. The investigation was though not able to predict how air pollution leads to greater level of anxiety, but the lead researcher Melinda Power said that the noise from the traffic may be involved in heightening the anxiety level. These findings do not prove that anxiety is caused by air pollution, but definitely, there exists a link between the two.

Michael Brauer, professor at the University of British Columbia, wrote in an editorial that air pollution leads to diabetes, premature deliveries, low weight at birth and cardiovascular diseases and also causes systemic inflammation, which affects multiple organs. For the anxiety study, he added that it is an addition to the growing body of literature on the mental health effects of air pollution.