The Effects Of Air Pollution On Brain Health In Seniors
By Jackie Edwards
As you might already know, air pollution can cause a myriad of health problems; and one of the biggest organs in the body that is affected by this predicament is the brain. As reported by The Dementia Epidemic, in every group of seniors aged 65 and above, 1 in 8 individuals has Alzheimer’s – the most popular form of dementia. Another interesting finding is that seniors are starting to develop dementia a decade earlier than what the case was 20 years ago. Why? The answer is quite simple: air pollution. Furthermore, as stated by the Reuters Health, for every increase in 10mg of particulate matter in the air, the mortality rate goes up by 7.3 %, which is needless to say, a worrying statistic. In the last 20-year period, deaths associated to neurological diseases have quadrupled according to conclusive findings by Breathe Easy Home. Unfortunately, seniors happen to be the most susceptible lot to these harmful effects of polluted air. Air purifiers for residences are thus a handy recommendation for improving indoor air quality and curbing pollution-related brain damage.
Parameters That Define Good Air Quality
There are certain parameters used to determine the quality of air. Elevated levels of airborne toxins alter blood composition, causing adverse health effects. That’s where air purifiers come in handy, as they get rid of these toxins. For your indoor air to be considered healthy, humidity levels need to be between 30%-65%. Fungal and bacterial counts should be at 500 CFU/ m3.VOC, ozone, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, on the other hand, need to be 3 ppm, 0.05 ppm, 9 ppm and 1000 ppm respectively. Particulate matter should be at 150 µg/m3. All this is according to the Institute of Environmental Epidemiology.
Dementia And Other Air Pollution-Related Diseases
In the US, up to 5.3 million seniors have dementia, as reported by the Alzheimer’s Association. This figure translates to one in every ten seniors living with Alzheimer’s. Dementia causes cognitive impairment as well as memory loss. Initial signs and symptoms of dementia often manifest as a result of another condition. The signs to look out for include apathy, short-term memory loss, and mood swings. Other conditions linked to poor air quality in seniors include arrhythmias, heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory infections.
How Poor Air Affects The Brain
So, you might be wondering, how exactly does poor air quality affect the brain? Fine particles present in the air you breathe find their way into the body through the nose and mouth. Once in, they proceed to the lungs where they bring about various infections of the respiratory tract. After embedding in one’s lungs, they will find their way into the bloodstream that later travels to other parts of the body, the most sensitive part being the brain. Unknown to many, the tiny hairs lining the nasal system are also a direct path for fine particles into the brain. Once in the brain, the particulates activate the brain’s immune cells responsible for protection from threats like bacteria. These cells are otherwise known as microglia. They work by dispensing lethal chemicals that kill foreign germs. The fine particulate matter therefore triggers overactivity of the microglia which consequently causes chronic brain inflammation. This, in turn, interferes with normal brain functions, by causing various neurological diseases. Furthermore, a study carried out by University of Southern California, indicated that in areas with higher PM2.5 exposure, people aged between 71 and 89 living there had reduced volumes of the brain’s white matter. White matter, as you might be aware, is important in dictating the manner in which information is shared in the brain. Lastly, the concentration of fine particulates structurally affects the brain’s aging process.
The Genetic Variant APOE-e4
Everybody normally has two copies of the APOE gene. However, the APOE-e4 allele is only present in about 10 to 15 percent of the entire human population. Having the APOE-e4 gene puts you at a greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Among those seniors with the APOE-e4 variant gene, those exposed to air that is heavily polluted with exhaust fumes and fine particulates happen to be four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Those living in areas with less polluted air are less likely to develop this condition.
The Use Of Air Purifiers In Curbing Air Pollution-Related Illnesses In Seniors
Did you know, human beings breathe in 10,000 liters of air on the daily, in order to get the 420 liters of oxygen vital for survival? The air we inhale is full of contaminants; carbon monoxide, ozone, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, bacteria, fungi, and particulate matter such as dust, mold spores, and pollen. These airborne toxins have serious health effects on nerves, kidneys, liver, the respiratory system, and even the brain. The importance of air purifiers can therefore not be overlooked. Air purifiers can either be active or passive. Active air purifiers like the LakeAir Maxum employ ionization to clean air while the latter use filters.
Unbeknownst to many, purifiers improve health in many diverse ways. The first and more obvious is by removing contaminants, that help eliminate conditions such as asthma, dementia, and bronchitis. Secondly, they improve cardiovascular health. They make breathing easy which reduces stress placed on the system and consequently improve the microvascular function. Thirdly, air purifiers help manage dementia. Magnetite buildup is common in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. By purifying air, they remove magnetite which is popular in cities with high levels of air pollution.
Many more studies have continued to prove the link between air pollution and various diseases in seniors. Air pollution has in the past been linked to strokes and heart attacks. Additionally, overall poor brain health has been linked to cardiovascular issues. It is thus important to take steps towards ensuring the air you breathe is clean and healthy. The easiest way to achieve this? Simply invest in an air sensor and an air purifier.