Air pollution increases cases of heart disease and dementia

People continuously exposed to air pollution are at an increased risk of dementia, especially if they also have cardiovascular disease, according to a study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology. Therefore, patients with cardiovascular disease who live in polluted environments may need additional prevention from doctors to prevent dementia, the researchers say.

The number of people living with dementia is expected to triple over the next 30 years. No curative treatment has been identified and the search for modifiable risk and protective factors remains a public health priority. Recent studies have linked cardiovascular disease and air pollution to the development of dementia, until now findings on the link between air pollution and dementia have been sparse and inconsistent.

Current standards do not sufficiently protect populations

In this study, researchers examined the link between long-term exposure to air pollution and dementia and the role that cardiovascular disease plays in this association. Nearly 3,000 adults, with an average age of 74 and living in the Kungsholmen district in central Stockholm, were followed for up to 11 years. Among them, 364 people developed dementia. The annual average level of particles 2.5 microns or less in width (PM2.5) is considered low by international standards.

“Interestingly, we were able to establish adverse human health effects at levels below current air pollution standards,” says first author Giulia Grande, a researcher in the Department of Neurobiology, Health Sciences, and Health. society of the Karolinska Institutet. “Our findings suggest that air pollution plays a role in the development of dementia, and primarily through the middle stage of cardiovascular disease and especially stroke.”

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Dementia risk increased by 50%

Over the past five years of exposure, the risk of dementia has increased by more than 50%. According to the researchers, heart failure and ischemic heart disease increase the risk of dementia. Strokes alone explain nearly 50% of dementia cases linked to air pollution.

“Air pollution is an established risk factor for cardiovascular health, and because cardiovascular disease accelerates cognitive decline, we believe exposure to air pollution may have an indirect negative effect on cognition. says Giulia Grande. »


The role of cardiovascular disease in the association of long-term exposure to air pollution and the risk of dementia,” Giulia Grande, Petter LS Ljungman, Kristina Eneroth, Tom Bellander, Debora Rizzuto, JAMA Neurology, March 30, 2020, DOI: 10.1001 /janeurol.2019.4914


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