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Doctors advocate for lowering air pollution to tackle dementia risk

Doctors advocate for lowering air pollution to tackle dementia risk

New Delhi: Doctors here on Thursday called for strict regulations to keep the air cleaner, even as a recent study revealed evidence linking dementia risks to air pollution.

Dementia is an umbrella term for an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities.

According to the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine this week, people who lived in areas of higher particle pollution developed dementia. The study, based on data from a survey of 27,857 people, showed that 15 per cent who developed dementia resided in areas with higher particle pollution.

While previous studies have already linked overall bad air quality to a number of health problems, including the risk of developing dementia, the new study offers a finer-grained look at how specific causes of air pollution seem to be more strongly linked to dementia than others.

The study comes as India continues to grapple with persistently high air pollution levels.

According to the fifth annual World Air Quality Report 2022, India became the world's eighth most polluted country, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 53.3 micrograms per cubic metre, more than 10 times the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended levels.

Delhi has been ranked the fourth most polluted city and the second most polluted capital city globally, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 92.6 micrograms per cubic metre.

“In India higher concentrations of particulate matter in the air remain quite problematic. Tiny pollution particles get into the brain through the nose and cause neuronal cell death that is connected to dementia. Further particle pollution modifies inflammatory proteins that act on the brain,” Dr Praveen Gupta, Director of Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, told IANS.

“This study continues to shine a light on data that shows that dementia can be affected by air pollution. It’s important that we fully understand the risks of high particulate matter in the air,” he added.

Experts are concerned about the fact that the quality of air in Delhi/NCR is already very toxic with changes in weather conditions. With such high rates of pollution, rates of dementia will only increase unless strict actions are taken.

Reducing air pollution is essential for global health and humanitarian causes, as it will have a positive impact on dementia and other climate change issues.

“There is a need for collaborative action from government, healthcare community and NGOs to come together on a common platform and devise strategies to reduce risk factors and control the rates of dementia,” Dr Gupta said.

Air pollution is a major and pressing public health threat. The WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that lead to diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Pollutants include particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Both ambient (outdoor) and household (indoor) air pollution are harmful to health.

“PM pollution is responsible for many health hazards which start in vitro (in the foetus) till one is alive. The JAMA study gives another strong evidence about the health hazard of pollution,” Prof Vinay Goyal, Chairman Neurology, Medanta, Gurugram, told IANS.

“Living in an unclean environment (neighbourhood of industrial area) is responsible for many health hazards. As proven by a JAMA study, higher levels of pollution are responsible for developing more dementia than a clean environment,” he added.

With inputs from IANS

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