Air Pollution and Incident Dementia
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities. In people who have dementia, the symptoms interfere with their daily lives. Dementia is not one specific disease. Several diseases can cause dementia.
Dementia generally involves memory loss. It is often one of the early symptoms of the condition. But having memory loss alone does not mean you have dementia. Memory loss can have different causes.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, but there are other causes of dementia. Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms might be reversible.
Higher rates of new cases of dementia (incident dementia) are linked to long-term exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution, primarily from agriculture and open fires, according to an NIH study. Scientists found that 15% of older adults developed incident dementia during the average follow-up of 10 years. The findings showed that 4,105 participants (15%) developed dementia during the follow-up period. Compared with those who did not develop dementia, participants with incident dementia were more likely to be non-white, have less formal education, less wealth, and have higher surrounding PM2.5 levels at their address. While agriculture and open fires had the strongest air pollution-dementia associations, road traffic, non-road traffic, and coal combustion for energy production and industry were also associated with incident dementia.
The findings suggest that interventions that reduce air pollution may decrease the lifelong risk of developing dementia. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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