Air pollution is linked to a higher risk of stroke, new global research has found.
A study published in the British Medical Journal looked at the effects of air pollution in 28 countries and found a link between exposure to high levels of pollution and increased hospital admissions - or deaths - due to stroke.
Lead author Dr Anoop Shah, from the centre for cardiovascular science at Edinburgh University, said: "Long-term exposure to pollution has already been linked to lung, heart and circulatory disease. This study now demonstrates that even short-term exposure to air pollution can trigger disabling strokes or death from stroke."
The report suggested that public and environmental health policies that aim to reduce air pollution levels "might reduce the burden of stroke."
"We hope these findings further highlight the adverse effects of pollution on health and that policies will be put in place to continue to reduce atmospheric air pollution."
Facts about strokes:
It's the second most common cause of death worldwide
It's the third most important cause of disability
About 125,000 people suffer one every year in England
40,000 people die from strokes every year in England
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation which funded the stroke study, said: "It's deeply concerning that, in many areas in the UK, air pollution may not meet the required EU limits until 2020.
"It is absolutely staggering that the Government accepts that some may not meet the limit until 2030, a full 20 years after the EU deadline. This puts hundreds of thousands of people across the UK at higher but totally avoidable risk of having a stroke."