According to data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Retirement Study, older adults living in areas of high air pollution can be at risk to suffer decreased cognitive function.
In an analysis conducted by Jennifer Ailshire of the Center for Biodemography and Population Health and the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California, data suggests that fine air particulate particle matter – when inhaled – can deposit deep in the lungs, and possibly brain, and have harmful effects on brain health and function.
“As a result of age-related declines in health and functioning, older adults are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of exposure to unhealthy air,” Ailshire said.
Even after accounting for factors such as age, race, and respiratory and cardiovascular health, the study of 14,793 white, black, and Hispanic adults over the age of 50 showed that those living in areas with high levels of fine air particular matter scored lower when testing for recall, knowledge, language, and orientation.
This is the first study of its kind to link the inhalation of particulate matter to decreased cognitive function in older adults.