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Jul 31, 2022
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Air pollution raises risk of dementia

Air pollution raises risk of dementia

According to a new comprehensive report from the Committee on Medical Exposure to Air Pollutants (COMEAP), air pollution contributes to the cognitive decline often associated with aging and the risk of dementia.

Experts say that the reason for this is most likely the smallest toxic particles seeping into the blood from the lungs, which then irritate blood vessels and disrupt blood circulation in the brain. In addition, in rare cases, very fine particles of air pollution can cross the blood-brain barrier and damage neurons directly.

Scientists have known for decades that air pollutants, by narrowing and thickening blood vessels, can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, strokes and other circulatory problems. Ultimately, these processes can lead to vascular dementia, a condition caused by damage to the blood vessels in the brain.

“We believe there is good reason to believe that cardiovascular exposure to air pollutants has a secondary effect on the brain. That such exposure could lead to brain damage seems plausible to us,” the report’s authors write. “Therefore, we consider the association between exposure to air pollutants and effects on cognitive decline and dementia as likely causal in relation to this mechanism.”

According to researchers, the most dangerous types of air pollutants are PM2.5, which are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (about three percent of the width of a human hair). While only a small fraction of these tiny particles can directly cross the blood-brain barrier, long-term, indirect exposure can still lead to health problems such as dementia. What’s more, air pollution can also stimulate immune cells in the brain, resulting in neuronal damage.

“Epidemiological evidence indicates an association between exposure to outdoor air pollutants and the risk of dementia and accelerated cognitive decline.[Howevertheepidemiologicalliteratureisinconsistentastowhichpollutantismostassociatedwiththeseeffects”theauthorsconcluded[Howevertheepidemiologicalliteratureisinconsistentastowhichpollutantismostassociatedwiththeseeffects”theauthorsconcluded[Однакоэпидемиологическаялитературапротиворечивавотношениитогокакойименнозагрязнительвнаибольшейстепенисвязансэтимиэффектами”-заключилиавторы[Однакоэпидемиологическаялитературапротиворечивавотношениитогокакойименнозагрязнительвнаибольшейстепенисвязансэтимиэффектами”-заключилиавторы

Further research is needed to elucidate the link between environmental pollution and dementia, including epidemiological studies on cognitive decline and dementia, imaging and pathology studies, and how the human brain processes various types of particulate matter.

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