Dementia is a scary word. It means people start forgetting things, losing track of time, and sometimes not even recognizing their family.
More than 55 million people worldwide suffer from it. We usually think of dementia as something that happens when we get old or have bad genes.
But what if the air you breathe every day could make it worse?
New studies show that breathing polluted air – particularly from wildfires or farms – may be linked to dementia. Even if the air seems fine by government standards, it may not be good enough for your brain.
What’s in the air?
You may be wondering how air pollution can affect your brain. Imagine your lungs being the bouncers in a club. They try to keep out harmful substances such as smoke and tiny dirt particles.
However, some pollutants are so small that they can sneak by and get deep into your lungs or even your bloodstream.
These tiny particles, called PM2.5, are smaller than a single strand of hair and can come from a variety of places including cars, factories, construction sites and of course wildfires and farms.
This is where it gets really interesting. Many chemicals are used on farms to keep pests away from crops. These chemicals can also be harmful to your brain.
And when forest fires burn, they don’t just burn trees. They can burn houses and other things that emit harmful chemicals when fired.
Why it matters: What the research tells us
Researchers recently looked at data from over 27,000 people from 1998 to 2016. During that time, about 15% of these people showed signs of dementia. Guess what? These people lived in places with higher levels of air pollution.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure how pollution affects people’s brains. It could be that the tiny particles go straight to the brain and cause damage there. Or they could affect the heart first and then the brain.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that air pollution definitely causes dementia. The scientists say they need to investigate this further. But there is another reason why we should care about clean air.
What can you do?
So what can you do to protect yourself? If you know the air is bad, such as if a forest fire is raging nearby, it’s a good idea to stay indoors.
Using air purifiers at home can also help. And if you need to go outside, wearing a mask can protect you from inhaling harmful particles.
Protecting the air is not just about protecting the planet for the future; It’s now about protecting ourselves. Clean air could result in our brains becoming healthier and happier as we age.
This research is another wake-up call for us to do better to combat climate change. We only have one earth and one brain, so let’s do what we can to protect both.
If you care about the health of your brain, please read studies on how unhealthy blood pressure increases your risk of dementia Coconut oil may help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.
For more information on brain health, see recent studies on it Antioxidants, which could help reduce the risk of dementiaAnd Coconut oil may help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.
The study was published In JAMA Internal Medicine.
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