Alzheimer’s: A Lifetime in the Making

Does Alzheimer’s Begin in Childhood?

A new study found shocking evidence to suggest that Alzheimer’s begins in childhood, with babies younger than a year old displaying signs of the disease. The research emphasized that earlier intervention is necessary to prevent the disease and addressing air pollution may play a key role. Researchers examined the autopsies of 203 residents of Mexico City and published their findings online in Environmental Research. The bodies ranged in age from 11 months to 40 years old. The researchers specifically looked at levels of two abnormal proteins associated with Alzheimer’s—hyperphosphorylated tau and beta amyloid. Many of the bodies displayed heightened levels of these two proteins in the brain, even in children less than a year old. Evidence of early signs of Alzheimer’s disease was found in 99.5 percent of the subjects examined. The study theorized that exposure to air pollution may be behind these heightened abnormal protein levels in young brains. Children exposed to cleaner air performed better in various categories, including cognitive performance, lead study researcher Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas told Newsweek. Calderón-Garcidueñas is a professor in the department of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Montana. Calderón-Garcidueñas, who also collaborates with Universidad del Valle de Mexico, compared children by age, gender, socioeconomic status, the IQ of their mother, nutrition and education.

Is There a Correlation Between Air Pollution and Alzheimer’s?

Research suggests that when individuals breathe in small particles of air pollution, these can enter the blood, where they are carried to the brain. However, we don’t know which particles in air pollution are damaging or how much exposure is needed before real health problems can develop, Popular Science reported. While this study cannot prove that air pollution directly leads to brain damage, it adds to an increasing pool of research that suggests a potential correlation.

Is There a Link Between the Gene APOE4 and Alzheimer’s?

The research was particularly striking in the affect that the gene APOE4 had in the bodies examined. Those with this gene who were also exposed to air pollution had accelerated progression of Alzheimer’s disease as well as an increased risk of suicide, compared to those with the same exposure who did not have the gene. The study noted that 13 to 20 percent of the USA population carries an APOE4 gene. While not conclusive, the study did stress how important it is to reduce air pollution as a possible risk factor that can be controlled or improved to possibly reduce the risk.


About The Author

Named One of the Main Line’s Top Elder Law Attorneys
by Main Line Today
Robert M. Slutsky has practiced Elder Law since 1992 and was one of the area’s first elder law attorneys. Rob Slutsky advises clients on Medicaid and Asset Protection Planning, Guardianships, Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Estate Administration, Special Needs Planning and General Estate Planning. He has represented for profit and non-profit elder care providers and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. Rob Slutsky has been the solicitor for the Montgomery County Office of Aging and Adult Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Montgomery County, for more than 15 years.