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Researchers find growing evidence of detrimental factor behind dementia, stroke risk: 'Thousands more people are on the path'

Stroke is the second-leading cause of death in the world, and a projected 150 million people will have dementia by 2050.

Stroke is the second-leading cause of death in the world, and a projected 150 million people will have dementia by 2050.

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We all know that air pollution is bad for the environment, but a new study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom shows that it is also detrimental to brain health. Specifically, the researchers looked into how increased exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of one having a stroke or developing dementia.

What's happening?

Drawing on data from the UK Biobank project, the researchers examined the health records of over 413,000 individuals, focusing on the relationship between long-term exposure to air pollution and the onset of stroke, dementia, or both, as the Guardian reported

Over 11 years, the researchers found 6,484 individuals experienced a stroke, 3,813 developed dementia, and 376 faced both conditions. Out of these individuals, they found that long-term air pollution exposure correlated with acquiring dementia and developing dementia after a stroke.

The findings illuminate the pervasive impact of air pollution on brain health, even at concentrations below current regulatory standards.

Why is this study important?

This study adds to the growing body of research that shows the detrimental effects of pollution on the human population. In addition, the brain illnesses the scientists studied are already plaguing a significant portion of the population.

Stroke is the second-leading cause of death in the world, and a projected 152 million people will have dementia by 2050, according to articles in The Lancet, including the new study.

Professor Frank Kelly of Imperial College London underscores the gravity of these findings, emphasizing the critical role of air pollution in the progression of stroke and dementia. Air quality standards are already falling short of World Health Organization guidelines.

"Not meeting the WHO guideline as soon as possible means that thousands more people are on the path to developing serious illness, such as stroke and dementia simply because they are unable to breathe clean air," Kelly told the Guardian.

What is being done about air pollution?

Research like this is helping uncover the effects of air pollution, which can have implications on policy. 

Policy can have a large effect on air pollution. For example, Stockholm is set to ban diesel and petrol cars from entering the city center by 2025, only allowing electric vehicles in that area. 

States are also exploring the idea of "clean air centers" to protect people from dangerous wildfire smoke. These centers are equipped with heavy-duty filtration systems to provide a safe breathing space, especially for those who may not have access to clean, cool air at home.

There's also a push for individual action, like using air purifiers at home to improve indoor air quality.

While these efforts are promising, the only long-term solution is to reduce the heat-trapping carbon dioxide we produce worldwide. Supporting eco-friendly policy changes and reducing our carbon footprint are ways we can all contribute to cleaner air.

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