Air Pollution: A Cause of Silent Stroke?

Alan R. Jacobs, MD


July 29, 2015

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This is the Medscape Neurology Minute. I'm Dr Alan Jacobs. Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine have published a study looking at the relationship between ambient air pollution and brain structure.[1] They studied over 900 patients from the Framingham Heart Study. Participants were at least 60 years old and were free of dementia and stroke. Their MRI evaluation included total cerebral brain volume, hippocampal volume, white matter hyperintensity volume, and covert brain infarcts. They measured exposure to particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionth of a meter, called PM2.5 (ie, fine particulate matter), which come from sources such as power plants, factories, trucks, automobiles, and the burning of wood. They found that an increase of only 2 µg/m3 per in air in PM2.5, a range commonly observed in metropolitan regions of New England and New York, was associated with being more likely to have covert brain infarcts and smaller cerebral brain volume equivalent to approximately 1 year of brain aging. The authors concluded that, on average, participants who lived in more polluted areas had the brain volume of someone 1 year older vs participants who lived in less polluted areas, and had a 46% higher risk for silent strokes on MRI.

This has been the Medscape Neurology Minute. I am Dr Alan Jacobs.


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