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Does Air Pollution Hurt Memory of Older Adults?

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Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution

The findings echo those of Jennifer Weuve, ScD, MPH. She is an assistant professor at the Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.

She reviewed the findings.

In her own study, published earlier this year in the Archives of Internal Medicine, she evaluated nearly 20,000 women who were enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study Cognitive Cohort.

Long-term exposure to air pollution, she also found, was linked with worse declines in thinking skills.

The new study, Weuve says, is more representative of the general population than hers. It includes men as well as women.

Reducing Exposure to Air Pollution

The smaller particles of pollutants can be inhaled deep into the lungs, some research suggests.

"Some experts have found the particles can actually get into the brain," Weuve says.

"We know that air pollution produces sort of a cascade of inflammatory responses in people," Ailshire says. "In general, inflammation is not good." It's linked to heart disease and other problems.

To reduce exposure, do not exercise outdoors on high pollution days, Weuve says.

"When commuting, drive with the air recirculating button on," she says. "If you have central air or forced air heating, you can install HEPA filtration. That can help keep the air in your home cleaner."

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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