This Is The Reason Why People Living In Cities Are At Higher Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease

There are a lot of benefits to living in a city but it can be harmful for your health
View from below of highrise office towers in the City of London.
Kenji Lau via Getty Images
View from below of highrise office towers in the City of London.

In a study by the Emory Healthy Brain Study, researchers found a correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and people who were frequently exposed to ambient and traffic-related pollution.

This study was the largest of its kind and is said to add to the growing evidence that air pollution directly contributes to degeneration in the brain. Researchers found positive biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease—specifically amyloid plaques—in the cerebrospinal fluid of participants who were exposed to ambient and traffic-related air pollution at their homes.

While this study took place in the US, the UK is no stranger to pollution.

According to IQ Air: “Within the areas of the United Kingdom found to exceed the government’s legal limits for NO2, the highest levels were found within the Greater London area, with the next highest levels of NO2 pollution in South Wales, the West Midlands area, and Glasgow.”

Not great.

What this means for future prevention and research into pollution and Alzheimer’s

Speaking to Futurity, James Lah, principal investigator of the Emory Healthy Brain Study said: “We know that air pollution is generally bad for human health, including brain health.

“By showing a relationship to levels of the amyloid protein in the cerebrospinal fluid, this study suggests that air pollution might increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

However, Lah did offer a glimmer of hope, saying: “The flip side of that is that by cleaning up our environment, we might also help reduce the burden of Alzheimer’s disease.”

How to reduce your exposure to air pollution

According to Asthma & Lung UK, we should follow these steps on high pollution days to reduce our exposure to air pollution:

  • Limit outdoor activities and exercise so you avoid breathing in too much polluted air
  • Go out earlier in the day when air quality tends to be better
  • Stay on quieter, back streets if possible, avoiding areas where there’s a lot of traffic
  • Walk on the inside of the pavement because pollution levels are lower the further you are from the traffic
  • Keep your car windows closed if you’re driving, especially if you’re driving in slow-moving traffic
  • Be prepared by checking pollution levels in your area. Defra produces a UK-wide pollution forecast every day, and for the next five days, so you can check to see if your local area is likely to be affected