Is Pollution Adding to My Risk of Dementia?

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If you live in a place with high pollution levels, your risk of developing dementia might be substantially increased, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that among older Americans with cognitive impairment like Dementia, those who reside in the most polluted areas had a 10% increased chance of a PET scan showing amyloid plaques, when compared with peers who live in the least polluted areas, reports MoneyTalksNews’ recent article entitled “This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia.”

The study was recently published in JAMA Neurology. Prior research also found a connection between pollution and a higher risk of dementia. Sources of such pollution include cars, factories, power plants and forest fires.

The researchers examined positron emission tomography (PET) scans of more than 18,000 seniors from across the country. The average age of the seniors was 75, and all had dementia or mild cognitive impairment. Since roughly 5.8 million people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers believe high exposure to microscopic airborne particles may be a factor in tens of thousands of cases.

One of the study authors, Leonardo Iaccarino, says daily exposure to PM2.5 — atmospheric particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers could provoke a chronic inflammatory response, even at levels considered to be normal. Iaccarino goes on to say, “Over time, this could impact brain health in a number of ways, including contributing to an accumulation of amyloid plaques.”

Amyloid plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid clump together. They are thought to cause cell death and tissue loss in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

The American Lung Association released its annual ranking of the metro areas that are most polluted by short-term particle pollution, as measured by 24-hour PM2.5 levels. The spots are all in the Western U.S.:

  • Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  • Bakersfield, California
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Yakima, Washington
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  • Missoula, Montana
  • Redding-Red Bluff, California
  • Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  • Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona

The American Lung Association also says that overall, nearly 50% of the U.S. population is living with and breathing unhealthy air.

Reference: MoneyTalksNews (Dec. 22, 2020) “This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia”

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