Due to its high prevalence (55 million people suffer from it in the world today and the number is also growing; by 2050, the WHO estimates that it will reach 150 million), it is a priority in medical research to find not only treatments but also better understand the mechanisms of the disease and identify possible causes or environmental factors that contribute to its development.
Traffic noise, a possible risk factor
This is influenced by a study published in the scientific medium The BMJ , which concludes that exposure to traffic noise could be one of those environmental factors involved in the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The idea that noise negatively impacts our health is not new, and has in fact been linked to conditions such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
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Digging into these findings, the authors of this work investigated a sample of two million people over 60 years of age and inhabitants of Denmark, estimating the noise levels to which each of their homes is exposed.
They then compared these data with the records on cases of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementias in a space of 8.5 years.
What they found is that the possibility that people who were exposed to traffic noise above 50 decibels was notably higher than in the case of those who do not live in these conditions.
In addition, this relationship persisted when other monitored factors were taken into account, such as the air quality in each area and the level of studies.
Other complementary factors
In contrast, the difference in risk between those exposed to traffic noise seems to increase in areas with lower population density compared to more densely inhabited areas. Other factors, such as income level , behave in the same way.
On the other hand, the researchers admit that there are limitations to the scope of the findings due to the lack of information regarding factors such as lifestyle (although many related socioeconomic variables were controlled) or the quality of the acoustic insulation of each dwelling individual. In the same way, they recognize that it is necessary to take with caution the statistical registries on cases of Alzheimer in Denmark because they do not take into account some recognized risk factors either.
Applications in prevention
However, they found that the result is compatible with those obtained in other similar studies in other countries , so they consider that exposure to traffic noise can be taken into account as a modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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These factors are key when establishing strategies for the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia, since they are those on which there is the possibility of acting.
Therefore, and although they call to confirm these results with more future research, they conclude that traffic noise should be taken into account when formulating public health policies focused on the prevention and control of Alzheimer’s disease.