Air pollution linked to Alzheimer's symptoms in brain tissue, study finds

People who inhale small airborne particles, such as diesel exhaust or other traffic-related air pollutants, are more likely to have signs of Alzheimer's disease in their brains, a new study suggests. Shows link between air pollution and cognitive decline

for the study, published this week in the journal Neurology, researchers examined the relationship between ambient air pollution concentrations and Alzheimer's disease symptoms in the human brain. They found that they were exposed to high concentrations of fine particulate air pollution, also known as PM2.5. They are more likely to have overdoses, at least a year before they die Boards – Abnormal protein fragments between nerve cells in brain tissue that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Research has found a strong link between pollution and symptoms of the disease in people who are not already genetically predisposed to Alzheimer's disease.

“This suggests that environmental factors such as air pollution may be a factor in Alzheimer's disease, especially in patients whose disease cannot be explained by genetics,” said Anke Huels, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Emory University. Public Health. Although the study did not prove that air pollution causes Alzheimer's disease, it did find a link between exposure to certain types of pollution and symptoms of the disease.

The researchers analyzed tissue from 224 donors in the Atlanta metropolitan area who volunteered to donate their brains for research before they died.

“Donors who lived in areas with particularly high levels of traffic-related air pollution showed more plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease at the time of death than donors who lived in areas with low air pollution concentrations,” Hools said.

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What researchers say is that exposure to high levels of pollution increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease.

More than half of the donors carried the so-called APOE gene, a strong genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. But for donors who didn't already have a genetic predisposition, the researchers found a strong link between traffic-related air pollution and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

It has long been known that concentrations of PM2.5 can induce short-term respiratory problems. It is because the particles are so small – 2.5 microns and smaller in diameter – that they enter the bloodstream after inhalation. Breathing in smoke can irritate your sinuses, throat and eyes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more severe cases, exposure has been linked to heart attacks and strokes — as well as lung cancer and damage to cognitive function.

Gaurav Basu, director of education and policy at Harvard's Center for Climate, Health and Environment, said the study sheds light on the brain risks of ambient air pollution.

“We often think of air pollution in the lungs, but it's really important to put the brain at the forefront of the conversation about the ways air pollution affects our health,” Basu said.

Although the study primarily examined the brains of white, college-educated males, Basu said poor communities and communities of color are often exposed to particulate matter and traffic-related pollution — because highways and roads are purposely built in their communities.

“This pollution does not affect everyone equally,” Basu said. “The issue of health equity in terms of vehicular air pollution.”

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More research is needed to determine the exact link between traffic-related air pollution and brain changes in Alzheimer's disease, said Heather Snyder, vice president of clinical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association.

“We know that Alzheimer's is a complex disease, and many factors can come together to influence a person's lifetime risk,” Snyder told The Post in an email. “Avoiding air pollution exposure is a risk factor that some people can change, but others can't, or can't as easily.”

This study also A growing body of literature reveals the latest Association between ambient air pollution and cognitive decline. coming out Research found that exposure to transport-related fine particulate matter is associated with reduced cortical thickness and thinner gray matter in the brain, which may affect information processing, learning and memory. Experts point to evidence linking air pollution exposure to cognitive impairment, mood disorders and Alzheimer's disease diagnoses.

For Huels, the best way to reduce exposure is to make personal changes like limiting time outdoors when air pollution is high and wearing a mask when appropriate. Other changes, such as driving an electric vehicle or using public transportation, could contribute to reducing air pollution, he said.

“To really reduce air pollution exposures, we need political decisions and changes,” Hools said. “There really is no safe or healthy level of air pollution in general or traffic-related air pollution.”

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