Study: Short-term exposure to air pollution linked to impaired cognitive function in older men

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Study: Short-term exposure to air pollution linked to impaired cognitive function in older men
Study: Short-term exposure to air pollution linked to impaired cognitive function in older men

Short-term exposure (up to 28 days) to higher levels of air pollution is associated with impaired cognitive function among older men, according to a study published in Nature Aging. The paper also suggests that the negative impact of short-term exposure to air pollution was lessened among participants who were prescribed common pain medications.

A decline in cognitive function is common among older adults but can be accelerated by environmental factors, such as exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) no more than 2.5 micrometres in size in the air. Nevertheless, there is a lack of research examining the impacts of short-term exposure to air pollution on cognitive function of older adults. Previous studies have also investigated the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs: a class of drugs aimed at reducing pain and inflammation, such as aspirin) as a potential treatment for cognitive impairment and dementia. However, the use of NSAIDs as a potential intervention to limit the impact of air pollution on cognitive health had not been examined before.

Xu Gao and colleagues studied a cohort of 954 older white men (averaging 70 years of age) living in the Greater Boston area in the United States who participated in the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. The authors measured their cognitive performance using global cognitive function and Mini-Mental State Examination scores over several visits. They then compared this to the levels of PM2.5 in the air of the local area on the day of each visit, and the average levels 1–4 weeks prior to each visit. The authors found that increased levels of PM2.5 up to 28 days before testing was associated with lower global cognitive function scores among participants, even at levels below what is usually considered hazardous (approximately ≤10 μg m−3). They also found that those in the study who were prescribed NSAIDs were less affected by the adverse effects of short-term exposure to air pollution.

The authors conclude that multidisciplinary studies based on larger cohorts with more detailed NSAID usage information are required to validate the relationships between air pollution exposure and cognitive function, and the potential modifying effect of NSAIDs, identified in this study.

The authors conclude that multidisciplinary studies based on larger cohorts with more detailed NSAID usage information are required to validate the relationships between air pollution exposure and cognitive function, and the potential modifying effect of NSAIDs, identified in this study.

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