Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging

A forward-looking, well-reasoned report entitled “Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging: With a Closer look at Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s Diseases” recently was issued jointly by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Science and Environmental Health Network.

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are considered in a broad context of aging and the impact of environmental factors on the aging process. The report discusses the relationship of environment and disease patterns and presents a primer on brain structure, function, and neurodegenerative diseases.  Environmental factors that are likely to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are also discussed.

The term “environmental factors” encompasses a broad variety of elements including toxins, chemicals, nutrition, stress, and socioeconomic factors.  The possible effect of certain factors on fetal development resulting in later life in neural decrements such as fewer neurons, synapses, or neurotransmitters is discussed in a fascinating manner.  Heavy emphasis is placed on the concept of oxidative stress and inflammation as being causal in neurodegenerative diseases.

Evidence is adduced that dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is a member of a “Western cluster.” That cluster includes diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome. Although somewhat speculative, it emphasizes the need to alert the nation to the rapidly-increasing aging segment of the population and to recognize and reduce the threat of environmental factors on the neurological health.

Philip Landrigan’s forward to the report emphasizes: “Urgently needed reforms include requiring safety tests for industrial chemicals before marketing; providing incentives to produce and market healthy foods rather than products that contribute to chronic diseases; reducing or eliminating emissions that accelerate chronic disease and climate change; and emphasizing disease prevention in healthcare policies.”  For more information or to order a copy please see http://www.psr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=boston_ha

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