Saturday, February 11, 2017

Air Pollution and Dementia

We think of air pollution as a problem that impairs our lungs and our breathing, but there's new evidence that it may also affect our brains and even cause dementia.

See this article "Is there a Connection between Dementia and Dirty Air?" by Casey Kelly-Barton on

One specific culprit may be the magnetite particles found in dirty air.

Increased levels of magnetite have been found in the brains of persons with Alzheimer's disease.

I have a friend who died in 2012 from lung cancer--specifically, non small-cell lung cancer.  Her name was Katherine McTaggart.

She never smoked, so the change in her lung cells had to come from some other irritant, such as the polluted air in West Los Angeles, where we both live.  The 10 freeway starts at the beach and passes a few blocks from her house and from mine as it stretches east toward Texas and finally Florida.

Thus I am sure that the pollution surrounding my community is having effects on me and my friends.

Read the article above to find ways you can deal with particles in the air.  These methods include:

  • Avoid the outdoors and exercise on high-pollution days.
  • Wear a mask if you do need to go out on these days.
  • Use HVAC filters to remove irritants inside your home.

The Happy Side of Dementia

My mother with the chihuahua, Irie, in 2007
Dementia can be caused by several types of events, not just by Alzheimer's Disease.

Lewy Body Disease and Parkinson's are also associated with dementia.

Stroke is another frequent cause of impaired function of the brain, including the frontal temporal lobe, which is part of dementia.

Thank you to NPR this morning for the interview with Christine Hyung-Oak Lee, who had a stroke at age 33.

Her book is called Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember.

In the interview, Christine mentions "Depression is part of recovery from stroke," Christine says in the interview.  "It's grieving for the loss of one's former self."

On the other hand, in the initial stage when she had only 15 minutes of short-term memory, she reported being happy and at peace.

"It's actually quite pleasant," she said.  

That rang true for me.  When my mother was living on the Memory Care floor of an assisted living, I noticed her general calm and contentedness and that of most of the other residents.

She didn't remember that her brother had died a year before, nor that her mother had died twenty years earlier.  She had few expectations or worries.

She was more relaxed and happy than she had been during most of her former life, when she was married to my father, an alcoholic, and was working outside the home while raising four kids.

Of course, irritability is also part of ALZ to varying degrees and at different times of the day.  Waiting for meals or for help is difficult.  

My mother wanted to be at my house, not in a facility, and when I would leave after a two-hour visit, she didn't understand why she couldn't go with me. 

Another positive note: I was encouraged to hear that Christine regained much of her brain function with time.