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Alzheimer’s risk could be reduced by improving air quality – new study


Researchers at the International Conference of the Alzheimer’s Association (AAIC) have concluded that reducing air pollution can lower the risk of developing various types of dementia, and especially Alzheimer’s disease.  International experts who gathered at the AAIC stated that the reports available to them “are the first accumulated evidence that reducing pollution is associated with reduced risk of dementia from all causes and, specifically, Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr Claire Sexton, director of scientific programs and outreach of the Alzheimer’s Association, said: “We have known for some time that air pollution harms our brain and our health in general, including a connection with the accumulation of amyloid in the brain.

“But the exciting thing is that we are now seeing data showing that improving air quality can actually reduce the risk of dementia.”

She added: “This data demonstrates the importance of policies and actions by governments and businesses in reducing air pollutants.”

The data presented during the AAIC 2021 focused on how air pollutants can affect dementia and what reducing them could mean for brain health in the long run.

Experts focused on three main studies that were carried out in different parts of the world and with different population groups.

The first study showed that reduction of fine particulate pollution and smog over a decade was linked to reductions in dementia risk among women.

The study followed more than 2,000 women between the ages of 74 and 92 without dementia.

Researchers tracked their thinking, reasoning and memory skills as they aged, and compared the results to the air quality of their different communities.

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The women’s risk of dementia decreased by 26 percent for every 10 percent improvement in air quality in their areas.

Women in areas with cleaner air had dementia risk similar to that seen in women two to three years younger.

Xinhui Wang, lead research, said: “Our findings are important because they reinforce the evidence that high levels of outdoor air pollution in adulthood damage our brains and also provide new evidence that by improving air quality we can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”

She continued: “The possible benefits found in our studies extended to a variety of cognitive abilities, suggesting a positive impact on multiple underlying brain regions.”

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The second study found that reductions in pollution between 1990 and 2000 caused dementia and Alzheimer’s risk to fall among a group of more than 7,000 people in France.

Dementia risk fell by 15 percent and Alzheimer’s risk by 17 percent for every microgram of gaseous pollutant reduction per cubic meter of air.

Dr Noemie Letellier of the University of California said: “These data, for the first time, highlight the beneficial effects of reducing air pollution on the incidence of dementia in older adults.

“The findings have important implications for strengthening air quality standards to promote healthy ageing.”

She continued: “In the context of climate change, massive urbanisation and the ageing of the world’s population, it is crucial to accurately assess the influence of air pollution change in incident dementia to identify and recommend prevention strategies effects.”

The third study provided a potential explanation as to why air pollution might affect brain health.

Experts found that people with longer exposure to pollution and smog had higher levels of beta amyloid.

Beta amyloid is a sticky protein that can clump in the brain.

Air pollution might also increase dementia risk by causing inflammation in the body, as well as damage the heart and lungs.

Dr Sexton added: “There’s been improvements in air quality over a number of years and decades, but there’s still so much further to go.”

She added: “Globally, more than 90% of people breathe air that fails to meet World Health Organization standards.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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