People who suffer from lung disease have an increased risk of developing dementia.
This is the conclusion reached by the team of researchers from the University of Minnesota after analyzing the data 14 184 people at the age of 54 years who participated in the study of atherosclerosis, reports The Medical News Today.
In particular, the researchers found a relationship between obstructive lung disease and dementia or the risk of developing cognitive impairment.
All study participants underwent a session of spirometry — the standard procedure, which doctors often use to diagnose pulmonary diseases. The researchers also interviewed the participants about their lung health between 1987 and 1989.
Researchers observed the health of these people for 23 years. During this time, 1407 people developed dementia.
After analyzing all these data, the authors found that people who have observed the lung disease in middle age, at high risk of development of either dementia or mild cognitive disorders.
Scientists also found a link between risk of dementia and low scores on two assessments of spirometry: forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and vital capacity (FVC).
FEV1 measures how much air a person can exhale in 1 second, while FVC helps to determine the size of a human lung.
Researchers believe that the explanation may lie in the fact that people with lung disease have low levels of oxygen in the blood. This leads to abnormal inflammation in the body and contributes to damage of blood vessels in the brain.
Doctors recognize that their scientific work contained several limitations, including the fact that the participants experienced lung function only in the beginning of the study, and that many of these people died before the experts had the opportunity to assess their level of dementia.
Moreover, since it was just an observation, its results do not necessarily prove that there is a causal link between lung disease and cognitive impairment or dementia.
However, if further trials can prove causality, it may be an incentive for public initiatives that try to improve air quality and help people to stop Smoking habits.
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Dave Zakarian has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Koz Post, Dave Zakarian worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella.