Depressed? Blame it on air pollutants too

Exposure May Affect Cognition
It’s not just the lungs. Pollutants in the city’s air have significant bearing on people’s mental health as well.Recent studies have suggested that air pollution, especially particulate matter (PM) less than 2.5 microns, is associated with the risk of triggering depression and worsening symptoms among those already down with the trait.

“A recent study published in Environment International, 2017 showed that healthy human subjects exposed to between 200-250mcgm3 of PM10 or PM2.5 for two hours exhibited changes in blood that mirrored damage occurring to brain cells. The findings are significant enough to take notice and act,“ chest physician Sundeep Salvi told TOI.

Another study reported that brain MRI scans of elderly women showed atrophy (shrinkage) of the (brain) tissue, which was directly proportional to the ambient levels of PM2.5.

A systematic review of at least 18 published studies has shown that exposure to air pollution is a potential contributor to cognitive decline, dementia and decreased brain function.

But how do tiny pollutants cause damage to the brain?
“PM2.5 particles enter the brain either directly through the nose along the nerve that senses smell or first enter the lungs, before entering the blood circulation from where they reach the brain. Microglia that guard the brain cells attack the pollution particles and mount an inflammatory reaction in the brain that causes damage to nerve cells,“ Salvi said.

“It has also been suggested that pollution particles on reaching the lung cause the cells to release inflammatory mediators that reach the brain and result in damage,“ he added.

Psychiatrist Soumitra Pathare said, “There are many simple things, including physical exercise, talking about your emotions and asking for practical support when stressed, that can help overcome depression.“

“If your depressive symptoms are more serious or you have suicidal thoughts, then you must speak to your family doctor. Professional counselling can help those with persistent symptoms of depression,“ said Pathare.

Source : TOI

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