The study was conducted by researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine. Over 900 patients participated in the research. Yahoo reports that the participants were at least 60 years old and all lived in the New England region.
Tech Times states that the research was named the Framingham Heart Study and was published in the journal "Stroke."
As part of the research, the scientists examined fine particles, otherwise known as PM2.5, in the air where the participants lived. PM 2.5 can be described as substances in the air like, dust, dirt, or smoke. The particles measured 2.5 micrometers in diameter, states UPI.
The researchers then examined the participants' brain structures using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The amount of fine particles in the air were compared with the participants brains.
The investigators discovered that for every two micrograms per cubic meter increase in air pollution, the brain's volume decreased 0.32 percent, reports Yahoo. According to Elissa H. Walker, an author in the study, the decrease in brain volume "is equivalent to about one year of aging."
In addition to brain volume reduction, the two-microgram increase in fine particles can increase the risk of covert brain infarcts by 46 percent. Brain infarcts are also known as "silent strokes," which show no physical symptoms but can increase the risks of future strokes, states UPI. Walker states that these "silent strokes" can lead to poor cognitive function and dementia.
Sudha Seshhadri from the Boston University School of Medicine shares her thoughts about the study's results on Tech Times. She states, "This is concerning since we know that silent strokes increase the risk of overt strokes and of developing dementia, walking problems and depression."
Tech Times reports that one problem with the study is that it was a cross-sectional one, which means researchers only observed a single point in time. For better results and more evidence that air pollution can be directly linked to brain damage, a longer longitudinal study must be conducted.
Sudha Seshadri says, "We now plan to look at more the impact of air pollution over a longer period, its effect on more sensitive MRI measures, on brain shrinkage over time, and other risks including stroke and dementia."
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