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Air pollution could contribute to dementia and brain ill-health, researchers claim

A long-term UK study has claimed that high levels of air pollution could cause people to have a stroke or develop dementia as they age.  

A new study, which has been published on eClinicalMedicine, has examined the health of more than 413,000 people in the UK. They were aged between 40 and 69-years-old and were deemed to be in full health.

city skyline with lights turned on during night time

Experts tracked the individuals health and focused on the association between air pollution and the transition from being healthy to having a stroke, dementia, or both. Currently, a stroke is the second-leading cause of death globally and around 50 million people live with dementia and the figure is expected to increase to around 150 million by 2050.

In addition to tracking this, data was also collected on their lifestyles, including smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption and diet, as well as their socioeconomic status.

The study took place over the course of 11 years and during this period, over 6,000 people had a stroke, 3,813 developed dementia and 376 had a stroke and got diagnosed with dementia.

Proffessor Frank Kelly from Imperial College London, who was part of the study team, said: ‘These new findings help to clarify how air pollution plays an important role in the dynamic transitions of stroke and dementia, even at concentrations below the UK’s current air quality standards.

‘The target for particle pollution under the Environment Act is twice the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline and is set to be achieved by 2040. Not meeting the WHO guideline as soon as possible means that thousands more people are on the path to developing serious illness such as stroke and dementia simply because they are unable to breathe clean air.’

Against this backdrop, other research has been taken in this area. In 2022 a UK government committee of experts reviewed 69 studies concluded that it was likely air pollution accelerated cognitive decline in older people and spiked the risk of developing dementia.

Image: 素辉 李

More on this topic:

Great Ormond Street to examine indoor air pollution before diagnosing illnesses

Air pollution escalates non-lung cancer risk, study shows

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