This air pollution may increase your dementia risk, study finds

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In a new study from the University of Washington, researchers found an important link between air pollution and dementia.

They found a small increase in the levels of fine particle pollution (PM2.5 or particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller) averaged over a decade at specific addresses in the Seattle area was linked to a greater risk of dementia for people living at those addresses.

An increase of 1 microgram per cubic meter of exposure was linked to a 16% greater risk of all-cause dementia. There was a similar association for Alzheimer’s-type dementia

In the study, the team used data from two large, long-running study projects in the Puget Sound region.

They looked at more than 4,000 Seattle-area residents. Of those residents, they identified more than 1,000 people who had been diagnosed with dementia

Once a patient with dementia was identified, researchers compared the average pollution exposure of each participant leading up to the age at which the dementia patient was diagnosed.

They found that just a 1 microgram per cubic meter difference between residences was associated with a 16% higher incidence of dementia.

The team says dementia develops over a long period of time. It takes years—even decades—for these pathologies to develop in the brain.

While there are many factors such as diet, exercise and genetics linked to the increased risk of developing dementia, air pollution is now recognized to be among the key potentially modifiable risk factors.

The new results add to this body of evidence suggesting air pollution has neurodegenerative effects and that reducing people’s exposure to air pollution could help reduce the burden of dementia.

The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives. One author of the study is Rachel Shaffer.

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