Climate change aggravates brains

Here’s an interesting and unusual and little-discussed effect of climate change. We know there are more small wars and increased rates of shootings and, in many areas, gang violence. While more violence tends to brea out during hot summer conditions, I hadn’t thought that there might be some unifying causal condition. Comments afterwards.

 

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Climate change is likely to aggravate

brain conditions, study finds

 

Sanjay M Sisodiya et al.

The Lancet Neurology

University College London

May, 2024

 

Climate change, and its effects on weather patterns and adverse weather events, is likely to negatively affect the health of people with brain conditions, argues a UCL-led team of researchers.

In a Personal View article, published in The Lancet Neurology, the team emphasizes the urgent need to understand the impact of climate change on people with neurological conditions—in order to preserve their health and prevent worsening inequalities.

Following a review of 332 papers published across the world between 1968 and 2023, the researchers, led by Professor Sanjay Sisodiya (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology), said they expect the scale of the potential effects of climate change on neurological diseases to be substantial.

They considered 19 different nervous system conditions, chosen on the basis of the Global Burden of Disease 2016 study, including stroke, migraine, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

The team also analyzed the impact of climate change on several serious but common psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

Professor Sisodiya, who is also Director of Genomics at the Epilepsy Society and a founding member of Epilepsy Climate Change, said …

 

“There is clear evidence for an impact of the climate on

some brain  conditions, especially stroke and infections

of the nervous system. The climatic variation that was

shown to have an effect on brain diseases included ex-

tremes of  temperature (both low and high), and greater

temperature variation throughout the course of day —

especially when these measures were seasonally unusual.

 

“Nighttime temperatures may be particularly important,

as higher temperatures through the night can disrupt sleep.

Poor sleep is known to aggravate a number of brain conditions.”

 

The researchers found that there was an increase in admissions, disability or mortality as a result of a stroke in higher ambient temperatures or heat waves.

Meanwhile, the team states that people with dementia are susceptible to harm from extremes of temperature (e.g., heat-related illness or hypothermia) and weather events (e.g., flooding or wildfires), as cognitive impairment can limit their ability to adapt behavior to environmental changes.

The researchers write,

 

“Reduced awareness of risk is combined with a diminished

capacity to seek help or to mitigate potential harm, such as

by drinking more in hot weather or by adjusting clothing.

This susceptibility is compounded by frailty, multimorbidity,

and psychotropic medications. Accordingly, greater tempera-

ture variation, hotter days, and heat waves lead to increased

dementia-associated hospital admissions and mortality.”

 

In addition, incidence, hospital admissions, and mortality risk for many mental health disorders are associated with increased ambient temperature, daily fluctuations in temperature, or extreme hot and cold temperatures.

The researchers note that as adverse weather events increase in severity and global temperatures rise, populations are being exposed to worsening environmental factors that may not have been severe enough to affect brain conditions in some of the earlier studies they reviewed as part of the analysis.

As a result, they say it’s important to ensure that research is up to date and considers not only the present state of climate change but also the future.

Professor Sisodiya said …

 

“This work is taking place against a worrying worsening

of climatic conditions and it will need to remain agile

and dynamic if it is to generate information that is of

use to both individuals and organizations. Moreover,

there are few studies estimating health consequences

on brain diseases under future climate scenarios,

making forward planning challenging.”

 

He added …

 

“The whole concept of climate anxiety is an added, potentially

weighty influence: Many brain conditions are associated with

higher risk of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, and

such multimorbidities can further complicate impacts of

climate change and the adaptations necessary to preserve

health. But there are actions we can and should take now.”

 

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I’m not sure what actions we might take to prevent our brains from succumbing to this problem. Spend more of our lives in air conditioning? Relocate to more temperate regions? Like the Canadian “snowbirds,” spend part of each year where the climate is more comfortable – and healthier?

My biggest concern is that we recognize that the brain damage and resulting negative behavior isn’t just a problem for “those people” … it’s a problem for all of us. And it even affects our quality-of-life experience within our immediate household. Even without violence, short tempers and poor decisions – both business and personal will have negative effects.

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