The topic of climate change has been buzzing around in the news a lot lately with government leaders across the world meeting this coming December for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Even though we hear about this topic frequently, we may not pay as much attention to it as we should. It can be easy to doubt how much air pollution and the resulting climate change could be affecting us, but according to two new studies published in the British Medical Journal, air pollution increases the risk of anxiety and stroke.
Increased Risk in Stroke
The first study was conducted by researchers at Edinburgh University to determine how air pollution, even for just a short time, could affect one’s risk of stroke by analyzing 103 observational studies across 28 different countries. They also measured the size of fine particles for the following pollutants: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and Sulphur dioxide.
As it turns out, one’s risk of stroke depended on the pollutant to which he/she was exposed. One’s risk of stroke increased by 1.5 percent for every one parts per million of carbon monoxide. A 1.4 percent increase was seen for every 10 parts per billion of nitrogen dioxide, and one’s risk increased by 1.9 percent for every 10 parts per billion of Sulphur dioxide.
Although these small percentages may seem insignificant, all of these pollutants contributed to stroke-related deaths and hospital admissions, which were greater in low- to middle-income countries.
Increased Risk in Anxiety
Similarly to the study above, this second study conducted by both Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities studied the possible correlation between air pollution and high anxiety, particularly among older women. The study found that 15 percent of the total 70,000 women experienced high anxiety symptoms, such as heart palpitations, shaking and depression, due to particles of air pollutants.
Interestingly enough, however, neither living near a major road nor exposure to larger particles seemed to have a huge impact on these women’s anxiety levels.
The Importance of De-Stressing Daily
As these two studies surprisingly show, air pollution increases the risk of high anxiety and stroke, resulting in a need for global change. Change may seem difficult to achieve, but researchers from these studies agree that even a small decrease in air pollution could lead to major improvements in combating this global health issue. According to Michael Brauer at the University of British Columbia, “Reducing pollution could be a cost effective way to reduce the large burden of disease from both stroke and poor mental health.”
While global leaders meet to discuss this topic, there are ways we can reduce our anxiety levels on a daily basis. The connection between high anxiety and stroke has been analyzed before as those suffering from high anxiety are 33 percent more likely to experience a stroke, which is why finding ways to de-stress in our daily lives should be a priority for everyone.
Here are some simple ways you can de-stress in your everyday life:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise. Exercise reduces stress, and meditative exercises like yoga and tai chi teach deep breathing techniques.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Fill your rooms with scented candles. The best scents are lavender, coconut, apple and chamomile.
- Even a new paint job could be the trick! The best calming colors are light to medium shades of green, blue, yellow or lavender.
- Keep a journal to help determine the sources of stress and anxiety.