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Stroke Smart Magazine

May/June 2007

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Air Pollution and Stroke Risk
Over the past few years, studies have shown that air pollution may have an effect on stroke risk.  Now a new study may help us understand why. The Finnish study found that in warm weather months, the levels of fine or ultra fine materials in the air, including carbon dioxide, may increase the risk of stroke.

The study is the first to examine the impact of small particles in the air and their impact on stroke risk.  The National Public Health Institute in Finland compared the air pollution levels in Helsinki from 1998 to 2004.

They found that an increase in these fine particles in the air during the warm season was associated with a 6.9 percent increase in deaths from stroke.  However, they didn’t see the same effect on stroke during the cold season.


People Living in Poor Neighborhoods at Higher Risk for Stroke
Many people know that they can lower their stroke risk by managing their blood pressure, eating healthy and not smoking. What they may not realize is that where they live may be increasing their risk for stroke as well.

A new Stanford University study compared the incidence of stroke and heart disease deaths in people who live in poor neighborhoods compared to those who live in more wealthy areas.  The research showed higher death rates among those who live in poor neighborhoods.

“It’s not surprising when you think about the health behaviors related to heart disease and stroke physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking and think about how neighborhoods can influence these,” said Marilyn Winkleby, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Researchers looked at 1.9 million women and 1.8 million men living in more than 8,000 neighborhoods in Sweden.  New cases for stroke and heart attacks was 1.9 times higher for women and 1.5 times higher for men who lived in poorer neighborhoods versus rich areas. The study also showed that for those who live in poorer neighborhoods, there is an increased chance of dying from a stroke in the first year after having the event.

In an effort to make all neighborhoods healthier, the researchers expressed a need for more neighborhood parks, closer grocery stores and less fast food restaurants especially in the poorer neighborhoods.

Women Migraine Sufferers Should Avoid Oral Birth Control
Birth control pills can increase a woman’s risk for stroke. Having migraines can also increase stroke risk. Now a new study shows that women under 35 who are taking birth control pills and also have migraines with aura - a condition that can impact vision, cause numbness and impair speech have an even greater risk for stroke. Women who smoked had even higher stroke risk.

To lower risk, study researchers recommend that women who have migraines with aura should consider not taking birth control pills at all. At the very least, women who are on birth control and suffer from migraines should ask their doctors about stroke risk and stop smoking immediately.

High and Low Blood Pressure Affect Stroke Risk in Kidney Patients
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke.  However, for people who suffer from chronic kidney disease, both low and high blood pressure may increase stroke risk, according to a new U.S. study.

The study of more than 20,000 people (7.6 percent with chronic kidney disease) showed that chronic kidney disease patients have a 22 percent higher overall stroke risk than people without kidney disease.

In addition, the study showed that for every 10-unit increase in systolic blood pressure, stroke risk increased by 18 percent. Blood pressure readings are expressed in two numbers, for example, 120/80.  Your systolic blood pressure is the first, larger number.

Surprisingly, the study also found that stroke risk increased for kidney disease patients who had low blood pressure.

“This effect was most significant in individuals receiving drugs to lower blood pressure,” said Dr. Daniel E. Weiner in a prepared statement.

More research is needed to fully understand the link between kidney disease, blood pressure and stroke risk.



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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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