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Your Health: The link between air pollution and brain health

Your Health: The link between air pollution and brain health
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Air quality doesn’t just impact your lungs, but it can also impact other organs -- like your throat, heart and liver.

From boosting mood and improving focus and concentration, to lowering the risk of dementia and increasing longevity, the benefits of exercise on the brain are bountiful.

“The longer on the treadmill, the lower your mortality is,” said Dr. Wael Jaber.

But what can things like traffic and pollution do to those gains? Researchers at the University of Arizona and University of Southern California looked at records of more than 8,500 people. They looked at exercise habits, brain scans and pollution levels where they live.

They found those who vigorously worked out in areas with little air pollution showed relatively large amounts of healthy gray matter and low incidence of white matter lesions, compared to people who never exercised hard. White matter lesions are associated with higher risk of stroke, cognitive decline and depression.

However, those beneficial associations almost disappeared when exercisers lived in areas with even moderate air pollution. For people working out in more polluted areas, researchers found they had less gray matter and more white matter lesions than those in less pollution, even if their workouts were similar.

Experts said when exercising outdoors, stay away from busy highways and check the air quality index before heading outside.

Think your indoor quality is better than outside? Think again! According to the EPA, the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. So make sure to vacuum carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter and change out air filters regularly.

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