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New study makes concerning connection between artificial light exposure and stroke risk: 'It is important to consider environmental factors'

The study's results uncovered a significant relationship between the two.

The study's results uncovered a significant relationship between the two.

Photo Credit: iStock

Afraid of the dark? You won't be anymore, after learning about new research that examined the troubling impact of light pollution on brain health, as reported by the health news service Medical Xpress, citing a study published by the American Heart Association. 

What's happening?

Researchers in China studied the adult population of one city over the course of six years, as summarized by Medical Xpress. The study's results uncovered a significant relationship between light pollution and the increased threat of cerebrovascular disease (a diagnosis defining numerous conditions, including stroke, that cause blood flow problems in the brain, per Cleveland Clinic). 

Participants with "[high] levels of exposure to outdoor light at night" ended up with "a 43% increased risk" of developing the condition, noted Medical Xpress.  

Why is light pollution concerning?

The word pollution probably makes you think of gray and gloom. But a toxic atmosphere can arrive in brighter packaging.

In fact, light pollution can come from the relatively simple act of turning on boat lights, building lights, and streetlights. Though they can be important for safety and navigation, these outdoor fixtures also include unnecessary illumination features that create three categories of light pollution. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, they are called sky glow ("brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas"), light trespass ("light that shines where it is not needed or wanted"), and glare ("excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort"). 

Light pollution doesn't just disrupt animal migration, obscure starry skies, and irritate our eyes — it also hurts our health. The hormone melatonin "has antioxidant properties, induces sleep, boosts the immune system, lowers cholesterol," and supports multiple organs to function, per the nonprofit DarkSky International

But the new study found that "continuous exposure to [artificial] light sources at night" from fluorescent, incandescent, and LED light can "suppress melatonin production … and impair sleep," Medical Xpress summarized

Going forward, "it is important to consider environmental factors" in public health, corresponding author and researcher Jian-Bing Wang noted in the Medical Xpress report.  

What's being done about it?

Don't remain in the dark when it comes to protecting your health. 

Regarding outdoor lighting, the National Park Service suggests sustainable using light, from reflective tape to motion detectors to warmer LEDs instead of melatonin-blocking blue light. 

Visit Durango recommends turning on fewer lights at home, closing blinds in the evening, and turning down the dimmer on your screens (or, better yet, shutting down devices entirely an hour or two before bed). 

As Medical Xpress wrote, the study also found correlations between other types of pollution exposure and stroke risk. Taking action to reduce pollution by looking into alternative energy, transforming your transportation, and learning about climate issues are all steps toward a brighter future. 

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