A study conducted in China and the United Kingdom has revealed that living near major highways is associated with an increased risk of dementia and changes in brain structure, primarily due to traffic-related air pollution. The research, recently published in Health Data Science, provides insights into the public health impact of traffic-related pollution on dementia, a growing global concern.
“Prior research has hinted at the neurological risks associated with living near major roads, but the underlying mechanisms remained unclear,” stated Fanfan Zheng, lead author and professor at the School of Nursing, Peking Union Medical College, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. “Our study delves into the relationship between residential proximity to major roads and dementia risk, zeroing in on the role of traffic-related pollutants.”
Key findings from the study include:
- Study Design: The research analyzed data from 460,901 participants over a median follow-up period of 12.8 years. Dementia cases were sourced from the UK Biobank and were verified for accuracy, ensuring a reliable dataset.
2. Dementia Types: The study also categorized dementia cases by type, allowing for a comprehensive analysis of the different forms of dementia.
3. Traffic-Related Air Pollution: Living near major highways was consistently associated with an increased risk of dementia. This suggests that traffic-related air pollution plays a significant role in the development of dementia.
4. No Association with Noise Pollution: Surprisingly, the study found no link between long-term traffic noise pollution and dementia. This finding contrasts with previous research that had suggested a connection between noise pollution and cognitive health.
5. Brain Structure Changes: Proximity to traffic was linked to smaller volumes in brain structures associated with Alzheimer’s disease, indicating potential adverse effects on brain health.
“Future studies should focus on validating the impact of reducing traffic-related pollution on dementia biomarkers and incidence,” stated Chenglong Li, the study’s first author. “Our ultimate goal is to prevent a significant number of dementia cases at the pre-symptomatic stage by eliminating exposure to heavy traffic and its resultant pollutants.”
In summary, this study highlights the concerning association between living near major highways, traffic-related air pollution, and an increased risk of dementia. The research offers valuable insights into the relationship between environmental factors and cognitive health, emphasizing the need to address and mitigate the impact of air pollution on public health.
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