Posted on Dec 18, 2012, 6 a.m.
Living in areas of high air pollution can lead to decreased cognitive function in older adults.
Some evidence suggest that exposure to air pollutants – particularly fine particulate matter – may compromise the cardiovascular system. Jennifer Ailshire, from the University of Southern California (California, USA), and colleagues report that high air pollution can lead to decreased cognitive function in older adults. The team studied 14,793 men and women, ages 50 years and older, who were enrolled in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study. The researchers discovered that those living in areas with high levels of fine air particulate matter scored poorer on the cognitive function tests. Specifically, fine air particulate matter exposures ranged from 4.1 to 20.7 micrograms per cubic meter, and every ten point increase was associated with a 0.36 point drop in cognitive function score. In comparison, this effect was roughly equal to that of aging three years; among all study subjects, a one-year increase in age was associated with a drop 0.13 in cognitive function score. The study authors urge that: ""Air pollution has been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and even premature death, in older populations, and there is emerging evidence that exposure to particulate air pollution may have adverse effects on brain health and functioning as well."
Ailshire J., et al. Presented at 65th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America, 16 Nov. 2012.