Dementia is a disease that affects the brain. It can cause difficulties with memory, thinking clearly, and behavior. Older adults usually suffer from dementia, but it can also affect younger people.
Air pollution is a significant issue in many parts of the world. It’s harmful to our lungs and heart, and now we’re realizing it might also be harmful to our brains.
That’s what a new study has started to explore, and the findings are quite interesting.
The study suggests there might be a connection between certain tiny particles in the air, some special substances found in our bodies, and the chance of developing dementia.
To understand this better, let’s simplify a few things. The scientists in this study were focused on something known as particulate matter, specifically PM2.5.
This is just a technical term for really small dust particles in the air that we can’t see with our naked eyes. These particles usually come from sources like exhaust from cars and smoke from factories.
The scientists also looked at two substances, let’s call them “body helpers”. One of these helpers is found in common foods like meat, fish, milk products, beans, and eggs. Our brain needs this helper to work properly.
The other helper is made inside our body cells and can be changed into the first helper with the help of some vitamins.
Linking Air, Body Helpers, and Forgetfulness
The scientists carried out this study in Stockholm, Sweden. They kept an eye on more than 2,500 older adults who lived in the city center.
They did this for up to 12 years. During this time, 376 of these people started having serious memory problems, a condition known as dementia.
These older adults were asked questions in interviews and they also had blood tests. They filled out forms about their exercise routines and what they usually eat.
The scientists found out that those who started having memory problems were breathing in slightly more of the tiny dust particles (PM2.5) than those who didn’t.
Interestingly, these same people also had more of one of the body helpers and less of the other in their blood.
After considering other things that can increase the chance of memory problems, like age, gender, smoking, and education, the scientists discovered that a small increase in the tiny dust particles increased the chance of dementia by 70%.
What’s even more surprising is that about half of this increase in dementia seemed to be connected to the levels of the body helpers.
In simple words, it seems like the air pollution and the body helpers might be working together somehow to increase the risk of dementia.
What’s Next for Us?
So what’s the big deal? It seems that dirty air might be bad not only for our lungs but also for our brains. And those body helpers could be playing a part in this too.
However, it’s crucial to remember that this study is just the beginning. We don’t know for sure how air pollution and these body helpers might be linked to dementia.
The scientists believe that dirty air could be hurting the brain in many ways. So, they are calling for more studies to understand exactly what’s happening.
In the meantime, this study makes it clear how important clean air is. It also reminds us that the foods we eat, which affect our levels of these body helpers, could also play a part in keeping our brain healthy.
If you care about brain health, please read studies about inflammation that may actually slow down cognitive decline in older people, and low vitamin D may speed up cognitive decline.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about common exercises that could protect against cognitive decline, and results showing that this MIND diet may protect your cognitive function, prevent dementia.
The study was published in Neurology.
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