Is there a link between air pollution and old adult’s memory?

A new study shows that air pollution might affect the memory of older brains. The research has shown that older adults living in area very polluted do not do well when it comes to memory tests and other thinking skills. The researcher, Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, stated that it is already known that air pollution affect the development of a child’s brain. She added that science is now beginning to understand how air pollution can also be detrimental to aging brains too. Ailshire presented the findings at the meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

How does air pollution affect health?

Air pollution has already be known to increase heart disease risk factors and also cause breathing problem in elders and children. Ailshire mentioned that her study is one of the first to try to see the influence that air pollution has on the memory of adults. In this study, about 15 thousand people, including men and women of the age older than 50 were evaluated. There were interviews and tests done by phone. Among others, Ailshire mentioned tests like counting test, word memorization. They also checked if the interviewees were able to remember the name of the president and some dates. The scores of the tests ranged from 1 to 35.

Then Ailshire looked into EPA’s annual average level of fine air particulate matter that was published in 2004. the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has a monitoring system around the country that records the level of fine particles in the air. She found that in some cases the level of pollution recorded was higher than what the EPA referred to as to be linked to health problems.

By comparing exposure to test results Ailshire realized that a one third point drop in the score was correlated to a 10 point increase in the exposure to polluted air. Even though it may seem small she pointed out that it could be equivalent to aging for 3 years.

She also gave a list of cities where people are more likely to be exposed to these levels of air pollution. Cities like Birmingham, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh were cited. Among others, road dust is also a source of air pollution and the heavier the traffic the more pollution.

Ailshire findings reflect the results that were found in another research. Jennifer Weuve, ScD, MPH did another research that also showed a link between air pollution and thinking skill. According to Weuve, Ailshire study was much more representative of general population in comparison to her own study. That is because Ailshire’s study included both men and women while Weuve study only included women.

How to deal with air pollution exposure

To deal with this situation, Weuve suggested that one should not be exercising outdoor, especially on high pollution days. She added that when commuting, one should also put air recirculating button on, while driving. For those with forced air heating, it will be a good idea to install a HEPA filtration. The idea is to make sure that at least the air inside your home is much cleaner. Hopefully one will not get as much air pollutants into the body.