Researchers have found evidence of a link between living in a polluted megacity and developing Alzheimer’s. (Read my previous Alzheimer Disease posts, one with a correlation to a cynical, distrustful nature, and one looking at the syndrome’s roots early in life.) Autopsies on over 200 people showed signs of the disease in its early stages in individuals less than a year old. If this holds up, then we will have a pathway to the prevention of this horrible affliction.
MISSOULA – A University of Montana researcher and her collaborators have published a new study that reveals increased risks for Alzheimer’s and suicide among children and young adults living in polluted megacities.
“Alzheimer’s disease hallmarks start in childhood in polluted environments, and we must implement effective preventative measures early,” said [Dr. Lilian] Calderón-Garcidueñas, a physician and Ph.D. toxicologist in UM’s (University of Montana) Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “It is useless to take reactive actions decades later.”
Overall, the authors have documented an accelerated and early disease process for Alzheimer’s in highly exposed Mexico City residents. They believe the detrimental effects are caused by tiny pollution particles that enter the brain through the nose, lungs and gastrointestinal tract, and these particles damage all barriers and travel everywhere in the body through the circulatory system.
It’s terrible to think that we might be condemning newborns to a horrible death before they’ve even begun to live, but it’s encouraging to realize that we have a potential solution right in front of us.
In a previous post, I referred to some research that seemed to indicate that there is a link between having a cynical and distrustful personality and later getting Alzheimer disease. As I explained then, this does not mean that being cynical causes the disease. All it is is a correlation. If anything, it might mean that the same underlying cause leads to both the cynicism and the dementia.
Now there is some more research that seems to indicate that at least one form of hereditary Alzheimer syndrome is beginning to affect the brains of its carriers much earlier in life. There is evidence of brain shrinkage as early as age three in some children with the APOEe4 gene mutation. This mutation is known to make its carrier fifteen times as likely to get dementia as non-carriers. It’s alarming that about fourteen percent of people carry this mutation, and it seems to be implicated in 20-25 percent of Alzheimer cases. Researchers stress, though, that genetics increase the risk, but do not guarantee the result. Interestingly, the APOEe4 gene mutation is also known to make people more susceptible to disease in general. Might it be that we’ll be able to prevent at least some Alzheimer cases by treating some childhood infection? If so, then might it be possible that we’d also see a reduction in cynical, distrustful people?
Mind you, given the implications of potentially altering people’s personalities, and possibly their politics, what are the odds that there will be a huge campaign against the treatment? Or is that too cynical?
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have found a correlation between cynical distrust and a higher diagnosis rate for Alzheimer disease later in life. There seems to be a link between cynicism – assuming the worst about the motives of others – and dementia. So is it safe to say that cynical distrust is an Alzheimer precursor? Maybe. Then, can we say that cynicism causes dementia? No. Correlation is not causation. The fact that cynicism and distrust of others seems to be an Alzheimer precursor does not mean that it causes it, as the researchers were careful to point out.
It’s possible that cynicism is just one trait of an overall ‘negative’ personality, and this is another example of attitude affecting health. It may be part of a personality type that makes a person less likely to lead a healthy life. It could even be that the distrustful trait is one of the early signs of dementia, and that the causation goes the other way. The researchers stress that their small study is not definitive. They’re hoping that other, larger studies will be conducted to clarify the matter.
Even though this correlation is not definitive, previous studies have shown a link between cynical distrust and other problems, such as coronary disease. So the message is to lighten up. Negative thoughts can make you sick.