Uncovering the secrets to a longer and healthier life for myself, my patients, and my readers has been my primary goal since I began practicing medicine. And figuring out what causes cognitive decline is especially important to me.
Sure, as the population ages, certain challenges become increasingly common. Including dementia. But I’ve always suspected there’s an underlying factor at work. One that maybe isn’t as obvious as the lack of exercise and excessive sugar intake that marks the modern obesity crisis.
Well, it turns out, I may be on to something. Because new research points to air pollution as a major contributor behind many serious diseases… including neurologic ones.
Stroke is in the air
Let’s start with one major cause of cognitive decline: stroke.
Scientists classify environmental pollution among the top three contributors to disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to stroke. This is based on seasonal and geographical trends in stroke incidence—and they’ve found that rates increase like clockwork alongside levels of airborne pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particulate matter.
And here’s the worst part: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 90 percent of the global population is living in air that exceeds their limits for “safe” pollution levels (an oxymoron all by itself).
In fact, one 2015 study attributed upwards of one million stroke-related deaths and more than 19 million DALYs to air pollution. (I guess our current administration, which is dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] in front of our very eyes, missed this news.)
As it stands, air pollution is behind nearly one-third of strokes globally.
Over the long haul, exposure to airborne pollution fast tracks carotid artery disease and endothelial damage. It also speeds up activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and results in narrowing arteries, higher blood pressure, and clotting.
All of these factors are huge contributors to neurodegenerative disease, including stroke and dementia. But they’re also smoking guns behind neurodevelopmental disorders—that is, how our kids’ brains develop.
The toxic soup has spread
I wish I could say that air pollution was the only serious environmental problem on the table. But you and I both know that’s far from the truth.
So let’s step away from air for a moment to take a look at water—and more specifically, solid plastic nanoparticles that pollute modern waterways.
These pollutants have spread through the food chain—starting with algae and then eventually making their way into fish, and ultimately, humans. Not only does this negatively impact ecosystems, but it negatively impacts our bodies and minds, too.
These particles are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier. Which means they could lead to any number of neurologic consequences, including higher rates of stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Needless to say, these contaminants are dangerous. They include the now-banned insecticide DDT, the metabolites of which can quadruple your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Not to mention other hormone-disrupting chemicals—pesticides, solvents, pharmaceuticals, metals, household products, and industrial chemicals. And they’re everywhere.
You have bisphenol A (BPA), which you’ll still find in food containers and other products. You have phthalates in soft plastics, cosmetics, body washes, and other personal care products.
Plus, children may be especially vulnerable to exposure, due to teething behaviors and increased absorption of lotions, powders, and shampoo. And the scary fact is that research has linked these chemicals to any number of issues…including asthma, cancer, obesity, infertility, diabetes, cognitive delays, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), and autism.
To make matters worse, most of us aren’t even aware of the toxic soup we’re living in.
I could go on and on about this topic. (And on Thursday, I will—because there’s one more concerning study you still need to hear about. So be sure to check back in!)
But for now, just know that if you haven’t considered the role that pollution plays in your health, it’s never too late to start caring. And as you’ll see if you stick with me, there’s plenty you can do to minimize the damage.
P.S. While minimizing your exposure to toxins is one way to help prevent cognitive decline, it’s not the only thing you can do. In fact, there are several natural ways to protect and restore your memory, strengthen focus, and fight dementia…all of which I discuss in my Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Plan. To learn more about this comprehensive online protocol, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Environmental Contamination Linked to Neurologic Disorders.” Medscape Medical News, 11/12/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/921212)