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New research finds pollution impacts brain aging

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Cottagers have long known that life on the lake or tucked away in the woods is best for a healthy mind, body, and soul. And now, we have the research to back it up.

A new study has found that exposure to air pollution—a fact of life for city dwellers—may actually cause the brain to age faster.

In a study recently published in the journal, The Annals of Neurology, researchers studied 1,403 older women without dementia from 1996 to 1998 and then again in 2005 and 2006, when they were from 71 to 89 years old. Drawing on air pollution data and residential histories, the study documented each woman’s estimated exposure to toxins from 1999 to 2006.

Remarkably, the researchers found that the women who had higher exposure to pollution actually suffered from a decrease in the brain’s white matter, an amount that equals to around one to two years of brain aging. White matter is a type of brain tissue that affects how the brain learns and operates, while grey matter is associated with cognition.

Pollution has previously been linked to greater risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but this study is one of the first to examine its impact on the brain.

“This tells us that the damage air pollution can impart goes beyond the circulatory system,” writes lead author, Dr. Jiu-Chiuan Chen. “Particles in the ambient air are an environmental neurotoxin to the aging brain.”

This study offers even more mounting evidence that cottaging is not only fun, it also has plenty of health benefits. Another recent survey found that hiking can help battle stress and increase mental well-being.

So enjoy the fresh air, cottagers! Your brain will thank you later.