Is There a Connection Between Air Pollution and Alzheimer’s Disease?

On Earth Day, New Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Webinar Explores the Relationship between the Brain and the Environment.

Over the next 35 years, more than 28 million Baby Boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease. The degenerative disorder is already the most expensive disease in America, with care for it and other forms of dementia costing more than $226 billion last year.  And Alzheimer’s is the only illness within the top 10 leading causes of death where the mortality rate is increasing, not decreasing.

Even with all of that bad news, there is reason for optimism. Over the last several years, scientific breakthroughs have been made that are helping researchers and doctors better understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease… and what we can do to prevent and treat it.  O’Neill and Associates client, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, has provided funding for much of that cutting-edge research.  Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is a non-profit dedicated to funding the most promising research to prevent, slow or reverse Alzheimer’s disease. 100 percent of the donations the organization raises go directly to medical research to develop effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Today, in honor of Earth Day, the organization has made available a webinar and paper that looks at the relationship between urban air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease.  The Webinar is being led by Dr. Caleb “Tuck” Finch of University of Southern California and a member of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Scientific Advisory Board.  Dr. Finch’s review of the available literature has revealed the following:

  • A strong association between urban pollution and shorter life expectancy: about 1.5 years shorter in the U.S., and five years shorter in China.
  • A direct correlation between urban pollution and a dangerous thickening of the walls of the carotid artery, limiting blood flow to the brain.
  • A strong connection between air pollution and inflammation in parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A direct correlation between urban pollution and decreases in verbal learning, logical memory, and executive function in middle-aged and older adults, both in the Los Angeles area and across the U.S.

From this, he has concluded, “It looks to me that air pollution contributes to at least five percent of Alzheimer’s — and it may be much more.”

Dr. Finch’s research has found some reassuring news related to the impact of pollution on the brain.  For one, the nanoparticles that may be causing this damage to the brain are on the decline in the United States and in other parts of the world. Even more important is the evidence that education may somehow protect the brain from air pollution.

Read more about Dr. Finch’s research at Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s Website, and learn more about what you can do to support Alzheimer’s research.