Emerging Stroke Risk Factors: A Focus on Infectious and Environmental Determinants

Sajid Hameed, Nurose Karim, Mohammad Wasay, Narayanaswamy Venketasubramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This review focuses on emerging risk factors for stroke, including air pollution and climate change, gut microbiota, high altitude, and systemic infection. Up to 14% of all stroke-associated mortality is attributed to air pollution and is more pronounced in developing countries. Fine particulate matter and other air pollutants contribute to an increased stroke risk, and this risk appears to increase with higher levels and duration of exposure. Short term air pollution exposure has also been reported to increase the stroke risk. The gut microbiota is a complex ecosystem of bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in the digestive system and affect multiple body systems. Disruptions in the gut microbiota may contribute to stroke development, possibly by promoting inflammation and atherosclerosis. High altitudes have been associated with erythrocytosis and cerebrovascular sinus thrombosis, but several studies have reported an increased risk of thrombosis and ischemic stroke at high altitudes, typically above 3000 m. Systemic infection, particularly infections caused by viruses and bacteria, can also increase the risk of stroke. The risk seems to be greatest in the days to weeks following the infection, and the pathophysiology is complex. All these emerging risk factors are modifiable, and interventions to address them could potentially reduce stroke incidence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • air pollution
  • gut microbiota
  • high altitude
  • risk factors
  • stroke
  • systemic infection


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