New study finds troubling risk factor for dementia – ‘everybody’ at risk

New study finds troubling risk factor for dementia – ‘everybody’ at risk

Dr Hilary lists the early symptoms of dementia

The Harvard Chan School of Public Health conducted an analysis of 14 prior studies to reveal that polluted air is associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Study author Professor Marc Weisskopf said: “Everybody has to breathe, so everybody is exposed to this.

“The population-level effect could actually be quite large because the number of people exposed is massive.”

In particular, the pollution cited in the analysis refers to fine particulate matter.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs notes particulate matter “is everything in the air that is not a gas”, including toxins.

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“Due to the small size of many of the particles that form PM [particulate matter] some of these toxins may enter the bloodstream and be transported around the body, lodging in the heart, brain and other organs,” the government body states.

“Therefore, exposure to PM can result in serious impacts to health, especially in vulnerable groups of people such as the young, elderly, and those with respiratory problems.”

While there has been an association created between air pollution and dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association confirms exposure to air pollution is a risk factor for dementia.

The charity states: “Certain forms of air pollution increase a person’s risk of dementia.

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“These include very small particles from traffic fumes and from burning

wood in the house, for example in a fireplace.”

Breathing in such particles may cause damage to blood vessels in the brain, and may contribute to a build-up of substances that cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Additional risk factors for the brain condition includes:

  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Cognitive reserve.

The charity expands on cognitive reserve to say that it’s a “person’s ability to cope with disease in their brain”.

Cognitive reserve is built by keeping the brain active over a lifetime, which includes socialising with other people.

Utilising mental capabilities, such as memory, reasoning, problem-solving skills, and organisational skills can improve cognitive reserve.

If you suspect you could have dementia, do book a doctor’s appointment.

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