Air Pollution and Risk for Dementia

One of the central themes of this blog centers on the importance of various lifestyle factors as they relate to brain health. We live at a time when there is, as of yet, no specific treatment or cure for our most-feared degenerative conditions of the brain, like Alzheimer’s disease. So it is fundamentally important that we embrace the notion of prevention as it relates to brain degeneration. This is why we’ve had such strong emphasis on things like diet, exercise, sleep, and social engagement.

We now have learned that exposure to air pollution represents a significant threat to brain health. In this video, I review a recent report from Science Magazine in which the authors describe the powerfully detrimental role of exposure to airborne particulate matter, as it relates to the brain. The authors specifically identify particles smaller than 2.5 µm as being the most toxic to the brain and, interestingly enough, the least regulated.

These particles increase the production of free radicals within the brain and also increase inflammation, an important mechanism underlying neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease.

The authors demonstrate how living in close proximity to a busy street, and thus being exposed to higher levels of these small particles, is dramatically associated with increased risk for dementia.

I hope you find this presentation interesting.

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