Research suggests wildfire smoke may increase Alzheimer's numbers

brain scans
Posted at 5:20 AM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 14:09:49-04

BOISE, Idaho — In Idaho, Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death and the number of people living with the disease is expected to increase locally by about 22%. Researchers are now looking into potential causes leading to the expected increase.

At Boise State, a professor and Ph.D. student are looking into potential causes leading to the expected increase and the thousands of chemicals found in wildfire smoke, specifically particulate matter may be to blame.

"We know that when you just inhale a short term amount of fine particular matter so really small particles that make up smoke that are about 100 times thinner a human hair. These particles can have an effect in the lungs and the heart," said Adam Schuller, a Ph.D. student at Boise State who is co-researching this topic.

The research also indicates that long-term exposure to particulate matter PM 2.5 or less may also impact the brain.

"That can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s or it can worsen Alzheimer’s disease for someone already diagnosed with the condition," said Schuller.

With Alzheimer's disease representing 60 to 70% of dementia cases, Dr. Amy Khan of Regence says early detection is key to successful intervention.

"The earlier you can identify some slippage, the more likely you can intervene and encourage the individual to see a doctor and take care of any treatable factors that may be contributed to the progression," said Dr. Khan.

The Walk to End Alzheimer's is coming to Boise in October and Twin Falls in September. You can join one of our teams or create your own.