Dementia rates UK ‘higher near busy roads’

Dementia rates UK ‘higher near busy roads’, research suggests.

dementia rates UK | over 50's newsAs many as 11% of dementia cases in people living within 50m of a major road could be down to traffic, the dementia rates UK suggests.

The researchers, who followed nearly 2m people in Canada over 11 years (2001-2012), say air pollution or noisy traffic could be contributing to the brain’s decline. The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes, and contains numerous risk factors. In another recent study, it has been found that dementia, more specifically Alzheimer’s has over taken heart disease as the leading cause of premature death, mainly down to an ageing population, but this study could prove another reason why the disease is taking so many lives – including that of Robin Williams in 2014.

Nearly 50 million people around the world have dementia, it has been found that the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads.
Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was:

  • 7% higher within 50m
  • 4% higher between 50-100m
  • 2% higher between 101-200m

The analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic, although researchers adjusted the data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking so these are unlikely to explain the link.

“Increasing population growth and urbanisation have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden. More research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise” said Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario.

What can I do to avoid this?

Moving away from busy or major roads seems to be the best option, it doesn’t have to be way in to the country, but there are a lot of reasons why one would want to move away from the pollution:

  • Pollution increases the risk of heart and lung diseases (stroke, respiratory problems, lung cancer).
  • 3 million people are proven to die every year down to the pollution in the air, according to the World Health Organisation.
  • It has been proven that pollution particles can be found in the brain.

For Prof Rob Howard from University College London: “This study presents one more important reason why we must clean up the air in our cities”.

The researchers suggest noise, ultra fine particles, nitrogen oxides and particles from tyre-wear may be involved.
However, the study of dementia rates UK looks only at where people diagnosed with dementia live. It cannot prove that the roads are causing the disease.

Prof Tom Dening, the director of the Centre for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said: “It is certainly plausible that air pollution from motor exhaust fumes may contribute to brain pathology that over time may increase the risk of dementia, and this evidence will add to the unease of people who live in areas of high traffic concentration.”

The best advice to reduce the risk of dementia is to do the things that we know are healthy for the rest of the body – stop smoking, exercise and eat healthily

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