23/11/2010 06:35 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Cigarette Smoke And Exhaust Fumes Linked With Alzheimer's

If you smoke or spend a lot of time in traffic jams you could be damaging your brain, say researchers. New York-based experts claim toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes are linked with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Toxic smoke from cigarettes could damage your brain Toxins in cigarette smoke could damage your brain. Photo: Flickr, .thana

The chemicals in question, called type-2 alkenes, have already been linked with the development of Alzheimer's. And now, writing in the Journal of Neurochemistry, the researchers claim it's because they damage nerve endings in the brain. One particular type of type-2 alkene, called acrylamide, is also found in fried foods, such as chips.

However it's not the first time smoking has been linked with Alzheimer's, with type-2 alkenes having been found in the brains of people with the disease, specifically in areas of the brain that are linked with memory and cognition. And there's no reason to doubt type-2 alkenes that are produced by the pollution caused by traffic fumes don't affect the brain in the same way.

The damage may be done over years and years of exposure to the chemicals, say the experts. In particular, the type-2 alkenes affect the long tips of nerve cell appendages called axons - which are also difficult to repair, since they are a long way away from the central part of the nerve cells.

But there's good news. The scientists have discovered a compound that protects the delicate nerve endings from being damaged by the toxins.

Smoking may be a contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer's, but studies also suggest walking can help reduce your risk. Are you taking any steps to protect your brain from mental decline?

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