27 Jun 2016

Plea for govt to tackle causes of strokes

7:09 am on 27 June 2016

A lead researcher of a global study showing nearly a third of stroke deaths and disabilities are caused by air pollution, says the figure is not that high in New Zealand.

The research found that air pollution's contribution to stroke burden could be as high as 45 percent in developing countries.

The research found that air pollution's contribution to stroke burden could be as high as 45 percent in developing countries. Photo: 123RF

Research by Auckland University of Technology (AUT), which drew on data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, found that air pollution was among the top 10 contributors to stroke burden, the measure of incidents, deaths and disabilities due to strokes.

Air pollution came in at number seven, behind risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and diet.

It found 30 percent of stroke burden can be linked to smog, but that figure is as high as 45 percent in developing countries.

Co-lead researcher Valery Feigin said while the effects of air pollution on strokes was lower in New Zealand, the number of strokes was still alarming.

In New Zealand, environmental pollution only contributed to about 5 percent of strokes, but this was still five times greater than in Australia, Professor Feigin said.

The biggest risk factors for New Zealanders remained poor diet and smoking.

Prof Feigin said the number of stroke survivors had tripled in the last 30 years, and resources to care for these people had increased, but not to that extent.

He said unless the government did more to tackle the causes of strokes, the health sector would not be able to cope for much longer.

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