Why Am I Anxious?

Fast-paced city life could be giving you headaches and stress, but a new study suggests that it may be the air pollution, too. According to two new papers published in The BMJ, air pollution is linked to a higher risk of stroke and anxiety — mostly in developing countries.

In the first study the researchers, hailing from Edinburgh University, used a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine 103 observational studies spanning 28 different countries, focusing on the connection between short-term air pollution exposure and strokes. They analyzed the effects of carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, measuring particulate matter (PM), or the size of fine particles.

They found that when people were exposed to carbon monoxide, there was a 1.5 percent increased risk of stroke per 1 ppm, a 1.9 percent increased risk per 10 ppb of Sulphur dioxide, and a 1.4 percent increase per 10 ppb for nitrogen dioxide. All of these pollutants were linked to an increased risk of stroke-related hospitalizations or deaths. This was especially true for low- to middle-income countries, while higher-income countries didn’t have as strong of an association.

…people with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety — which increases the risk of future heart attacks, strokes and even death. Some researchers also feel that depression may raise the risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy individuals.

“It’s a cycle of both cause and consequence,” says Meghan York, MD, a clinical cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham and the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Anxiety and depression can place you at greater risk for heart disease. And patients who have experienced heart-related events may experience depression or anxiety, which raises the risk for future issues to occur.”