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Air pollution association with risk of dementia

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Air pollution association with risk of dementia


  • A worldwide study commissioned by the journal Lancet three years ago revealed 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia, including three new ones: excessive alcohol consumption, brain damage, and air pollution.
  • They additionally looked at measures of exposure to particular matter (PM2.5) in the air and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is created when fossil fuels are burned, and assessments of episodic memory, executive function, verbal fluency, brain processing speed and APOE genotype.
  • APOE is a gene that provides instructions for making a protein crucial to the transport of cholesterol and other fats in the bloodstream.
  • One version or allele of APOE called APOE-4 has been identified as a strong risk factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The researchers found that participants with higher levels of exposure to PM2.5 and NO2 in their 40s and 50s displayed worse cognitive functioning in verbal fluency from age 56 to 68.

About Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that gets worse over time.
  • It’s characterized by changes in the brain that lead to deposits of certain proteins.
  • Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to eventually die.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia a gradual decline in memory, thinking, behavior and social skills.
  • These changes affect a person’s ability to function.
  • The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations.
  • Over time, it progresses to serious memory problems and loss of the ability to perform everyday tasks.
  • Medicines may improve or slow the progression of symptoms.]

  • Programs and services can help support people with the disease and their caregivers.
  • There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease. In advanced stages, severe loss of brain function can cause dehydration, malnutrition or infection.
  • These complications can result in death.

People with Alzheimer’s disease may:

  • Repeat statements and questions over and over.
  • Forget conversations, appointments or events.
  • Misplace items, often putting them in places that don’t make sense.
  • Get lost in places they used to know well.
  • Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects.
  • Have trouble finding the right words for objects, expressing thoughts or taking part in conversations.


  • Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life.
  • It isn’t a specific disease, but several diseases can cause dementia.
  • Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes.
  • Having memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia, although it’s often one of the early signs of the condition.

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of other causes of dementia.
  • Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms might be reversible.

Cognitive changes:

  • Memory loss, which is usually noticed by someone else
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, such as getting lost while driving
  • Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
  • Difficulty handling complex tasks
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Confusion and disorientation

Psychological changes:

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

What is the India scenario?

  • In India, only 1 in 10 people with dementia receive any diagnosis, treatment or care for the disease, according to the World Alzheimer’s Report, 2021.

Way forward:

There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment addresses several areas:

    • Helping people maintain brain health.
    • Supportive care given by the family
    • Managing behavioural symptoms.
    • Slowing or delaying symptoms of the disease.
    • Active lifestyle may promote health among the patients.

Syllabus: Mains; GS III – Environment and Health


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