by Julie Fidler, Natural Society:
A new study in Translational Psychiatry suggests that women who are exposed to air heavily polluted by vehicle exhaust and other sources of fine particulate matter have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia.
For the new study, researchers tracked the cognitive health of 3,647 women ages 65-79 for 10 years. All of the women were dementia-free at the beginning of the study. As part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), researchers assessed the participants’ cognitive function annually.
The researchers used EPA data to estimate the women’s daily particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) where they lived. PM2.5 are fine particles that are up to 2.5 micrometers in diameter. They are made up of solid and liquid droplets which are emitted from power plants and motor vehicles, and other sources of combustion.
The miniscule size of PM2.5 makes them easy to inhale, and inhalation of the particles can increase the risk of heart disease, asthma, reduced lung function, and other health problems.
High Levels of Pollution, High Levels of Risk
The team found that women who live in areas exposed to high PM2.5 levels had an 81% increased risk of global cognitive decline and a 92% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias compared to women who live in areas with low PM2.5 levels.
Researchers also looked at the brain tissue of lab mice and discovered amyloid beta protein clumps – the hallmark signature of Alzheimer’s disease – and the die-off of cells in the brain’s hippocampus, where memories are formed.