De­men­tia worse in poor ar­eas

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

LIV­ING in the sub­urbs could help pro­tect you from de­men­tia, a study found.

Peo­ple in poorer ar­eas were far more likely to show the early signs of Alzheimer’s dis­ease than those who lived in wealth­ier districts. Sci­en­tists say fac­tors such as pol­lu­tion, lim­ited ac­cess to healthy food or space to ex­er­cise and low lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion may have a dam­ag­ing ef­fect on brain health.

But the re­verse could be true of af­flu­ent ar­eas, where ac­cess to good ed­u­ca­tion, nutri­tion and cleaner air can pro­mote health. Dr Dean Hart­ley, of the US-based Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “It is not only things like good schools, nutri­tion and ex­er­cise pro­grammes (in wealth­ier ar­eas), it is not hav­ing that daily stress that dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas bring,” such as what will I eat to­day.

In a study pre­sented at Lon­don’s Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence 2017, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin School of Medicine and Pub­lic Health stud­ied data on the so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus of 1 479 peo­ple. They then tested cog­ni­tive per­for­mance.

While peo­ple in the wealth­i­est ar­eas tended to have av­er­age or above-av­er­age clin­i­cal scores in the tests, scores dropped with each level of de­pri­va­tion. Par­tic­i­pants from the poor­est ar­eas scored about 25% be­low av­er­age, even af­ter age and ed­u­ca­tion were ac­counted for. Poor cog­ni­tive func­tion is a warn­ing sign of Alzheimer’s.

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