Study links air pollution, strokes

Elevated levels of air pollution in the tri-state area can put residents at an increased risk for stroke, according to the findings of a study conducted by researchers and doctors from the Department of Medicine and Cardiology that was released on March 4.

The study looked at the vascular health of over 300,000 residents in the tri-state area in relation to  the air quality residents were exposed to, while taking into account other factors contributing to vascular health. Measures of air quality were extracted from air pollution monitoring data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the health of the residents from 2003-2008 was tracked with data from Life Line Screening, a vascular-disease health screening company.

Dr. Jonathan Newman, a Langone instructor who led the study, said the study was the first to look at the relationship between air quality levels and the carotid artery in the neck, which supplies the brain with blood.

“There’s been a history of evidence that air pollution increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke,” Newman said. “Our study correlated air pollution with a narrowing of the artery in your neck, which is an important cause of the stroke. It’s important because it’s never been examined before.”

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Newman added that those at higher risk of vascular disease should be conscious of the air quality they take in on a daily basis.

However, Newman said that people can control many other factors that contribute to stroke, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking habits.

CAS sophomore Zoey Shultz said air quality regulation still needs improvement.

“Air quality can definitely improve by adhering to and enforcing the regulations set by the national and local government on public transportation emissions, and by improving the technology that filters the emissions,” Schultz said.

CAS junior Tessa Rosenberry said the results of the study were not surprising, considering that the environment and human health are directly connected.

“It seems as though every day new scientific evidence emerges that further links the health of the environment to the health of people — even in cities, where the link can seem so abstract,” Rosenberry said.

CAS junior Davis Saltonstall, president of NYU’s EarthMatters club, said there should be more of a research-based focus on the long-term effects of air pollution.

“It seems reasonable enough to expect that people exposed to poor air quality would experience adverse health effects,” Saltonstall said. “Exposure to many of the different pollutants found in New York have been known to cause short-term illnesses already. ”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 10 print edition. Email Amanda Morris at [email protected]

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