Environmental vascular risk factors: New perspectives for stroke prevention
Despite intensive evaluation of acute stroke patients, perhaps only half of the attributable stroke risk is usually identified. In addition to traditional and non-traditional vascular risk factors-including most recently homocysteine, inflammation, and alterations of coagulation-a number of environmental risk factors for stroke have been identified in the last decade. In this update we review the following: lower education and poor socioeconomic status (probable surrogates for exposure to traditional high-risk behaviors such as smoking, poor nutrition, lack of prenatal control, absence of preventive medical and dental care, and non-compliance of treatment of conditions such as hypertension); depression, stress and affective disorders; obstructive sleep apnea; passive smoking and environmental pollution; infections, in particular periodontal diseases that increase C-reactive protein (CRP); raised body mass index (obesity); exercise, and diet. The possible role of high-fructose corn syrup in the epidemic of obesity in the USA is reviewed. Protective diets include higher consumption of fish, olive oil, grains, fruits and vegetables (Mediterranean diet), as well as probiotic bacteria in yogurt and dairy products. Careful attention should be given to the patient's environment looking for modifiable factors. The effects of clean environmental air and water, adequate diet and appropriate nutrition, healthy teeth, exercise, and refreshing sleep in the prevention of stroke and cardiovascular disease appear to be quite compelling. Although some of these modifiable risk factors lack evidence-based information, judicious clinical sense should be used to counteract the potentially damaging effects of adverse environmental vascular risk factors.