World brain day
Clean air, healthy brain
Occupational, residential air pollution and water pollution are emerging issues
In recent times, the effects of air pollution on our health have attracted increasing interest of international institutions providing growing mortality and morbidity data. The latest estimation of deaths attributable to air pollution worldwide is 9 million deaths annually. These deaths are related to cardiac diseases such as myocardial infarction or congestive heart failure, neurological events such as stroke, lung diseases and cancer.
This was said by Shifa International Hospital Consultant Neurologist Dr Arsalan Ahmad, quoting World Federation of Neurology on the occasion of this year’s World Brain Day.
The topic of this year’s World Brain Day (WBD) was clean air for healthy brain. The objective was to raise awareness on neurological diseases caused by air pollution.
Shifa International Hospital together with Pakistan Society of Neurology (PSN) on Saturday had organised an awareness campaign to mark World Brain Day.
Dr Arsalan discussed the impacts of air pollution on brain health. He said that air pollution is a global and diffuse contamination by noxious bio-aerosols (pollen, germs and toxins) and chemical compounds (man-made or of natural origin).
Mostly the long-term exposure to relatively high levels of certain chemicals in workplace air has resulted in many examples of nervous system damage over the past century. In addition to air pollution, occupational and residential air pollution and water pollution may also be an emerging issue.
The recent publications have shown evidence for air pollution as a stroke risk. The recent Global Burden of Disease study, for example, has investigated data from 1990 to 2013 in 188 countries. It demonstrated that air pollution contributes to UP TO 30% to the burden of stroke. The adverse effects of air pollution are most important in low and medium-income countries and for vulnerable patients with other vascular risk factors or a prior history of stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of disability, the second cause of death in people older than 60 years, one of the main reasons for hospitalization, and a risk factor for dementia as well, said Dr Arsalan.
The list of possible air pollution and environmental pollution’s adverse effects is increasing. Neuro-developmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, possibly also neuroinflammatory diseases are discussed among others as having a potential association with polluted air, he said.
In his concluding remarks he said that air pollution and environmental pollution is a potentially modifiable risk factor for some cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. The dogma has changed. Prevention is definitely not just an individual concern and must be considered at the societal level. This enlarging worldwide public health problem requires environmental health policies able to reduce air pollution to promote healthy living as well as brain health.