Climate Change vs Brain Health

Here’s another concern about climate change: it’s having an impact on our brain health … enough to cause a medical journal to do an in-depth study and share the consequences. Comments and suggestions afterwards.

 

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Brain Health Compromised

by Climate Change

 

Shifting weather patterns may continue to

affect stroke, dementia, neurologic infections.

 

by Judy George,

Deputy Managing Editor

MedPage Today

May 28, 2024

 

Climate change will continue to affect brain health, researchers predicted.

 

“The scale of potential effects of

climate change on neurological

diseases is likely to be substantial,”

 

… wrote epilepsy researcher Sanjay Sisodiya, PhD, of University College London, and co-authors in a Lancet Neurology opens in a new tab or window essay.

In a review of 332 articles that spanned several decades, Sisodiya and colleagues found that the incidence, prevalence, and severity of many neurologic conditions were affected by climate change.

In some countries, including the U.S. and South Korea, rising temperatures and humidity extremes were associated with higher ischemic stroke incidence, they reported. In other countries, cold periods upped the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage.

Multiple sclerosis patients reported worse symptoms when temperatures were higher than the long-term average, they added. Migraine admissions to the emergency department rose when days were hotter. Regional climate-related conditions have been associated with tick-borne encephalitis and mosquito-borne infections, and in several countries, Alzheimer’s- and dementia-related hospital admissions increased when temperatures climbed.

Climate shifts that affected neurologic disorders included both low and high temperature extremes and large temperature fluctuations within a day, the researchers reported.

The impetus for the review came from “listening to the experiences of people with severe epilepsies and their families and carers during heatwaves, combined with existing concerns about the environment,” Sisodiya told MedPage Today.

 

“I started asking questions and realized

that the changing climate could have

serious negative implications for

people with neurological conditions.”

 

The research team studied the neurologic conditions most burdensome across the world, starting with stroke, to see how ambient temperature may have affected the nervous system.

 

“Climate change has pervasive,

systemic consequences,”

 

Sisodiya and co-authors wrote. Rising temperatures challenge the capacity to maintain body temperature, they pointed out. Heat can also have direct effects on molecular function, particularly ion channels, they added. The researchers wrote …

 

“Neurological diseases, and their treatments,

can undermine all aspects of thermoregulation:

for example, they can compromise adaptation

to long-term rising temperatures and acute

temperature elevations (e.g., in heatwaves).

 

“Conversely, disease pathophysiology

can itself be aggravated by normal

thermoregulatory responses.”

 

Importantly, high temperatures at night can affect sleep, and compromised sleep can aggravate underlying neurologic conditions like epilepsy, Sisodiya said.

 

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I’m increasingly concerned about deaths due to higher temperatures in major urban centers that virtually never had such a problem years ago. I also assume we’d all head for comfortable air-conditioned spaces when temperatures exceeded comfort. But I never saw the kind of data – such as increases in epilepsy or stroke – shared in this report.  Comments from D …

 

“Excessive heat can be damaging in many ways. The first thing to think about is staying cool and hopefully that includes air-conditioning. It must also include staying hydrated – including adding electrolytes to your water – and not doing too much outside. In most cases, people slow down when temperatures get hot. If you have no air-conditioning, there ere public spaces that can be used as respite, such as libraries, some schools, or even malls. The goal is to move slowly, hydrate more than you think you need to, and stay cool. It will help your overall demeanor. 

“If possible, you might plant trees, to create a micro-climate beneath them. If it’s still too hot, you may need to move. Either way, be careful being outside.”

 

My solar-powered home uses no fossil fuels, including to power my e-car.  We also planted scores of trees and a huge number of shrubs on what was a barren site.  Is that enough? A broken bone can be fixed. But if our brains are in trouble, what then?

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