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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
November 21, 2012

Breathing Easy: Clean Air May Help Older Adults Keep a Sharp Mind

As you grow older, air pollution won't just get you all sneezy; it may even affect your brain cells. By Charlene J. Owen

 Looking for a place to retire shouldn’t just be about how good the view would be; it should also be about the quality of air people would be breathing in. A new study highlights the importance of clean air especially for older adults, as pollution can lead to decreased cognitive function.

Air pollution has been known to cause many cardiovascular and respiratory problems, but Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California, has found a link tying this common environmental problem to degenerative mental conditions.

Her study, posted in, analyzed data on 14,793 men and women from ages 50 and above and the levels of particulates in the air during a given period. The cognitive function of each participant was then monitored using a series of exercises which included word recall, language knowledge, and orientation, and was rated on a scale of 1 to 35. 

Ailshire and her team found that those participants who lived in areas with higher concentration of air particulates scored lower in the tests. This means that the brain ages faster when it’s exposed to harmful air particulates, especially as an individual grows older.

Although it’s impossible for many of us, our parents, or our grandparents to move to a nearby province with a generally cleaner environment, taking quick weekend trips to the lusher places of Tagaytay or Laguna may help lessen the effects of air pollutions in our systems. Check out the related articles below for more ways on how to improve your cognitive function whatever your age is.

(Photo by Eran Sandler via Flickr Creative Commons)


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Charlene J. Owen
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