Climate Change is Making Brain Diseases Worse, Study Finds

Climate Change is Making Brain Diseases Worse, Study Finds

A new study reveals a concerning link between climate change and the worsening of symptoms for various brain conditions.

The culprit? Rising temperatures and humidity. Our brains, it turns out, are finely tuned to operate within a specific temperature range. When this range is exceeded, as is happening more frequently due to climate change, our brains struggle to function optimally.

How Our Brains React to Heat

Imagine billions of tiny computers working together – that's essentially what our brains are. Each neuron acts as a component, and many are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. When it gets too hot and humid, these components struggle to work in harmony.

Humans, having evolved in Africa, are comfortable within a specific range: 20C to 26C temperature and 20% to 80% humidity. Unfortunately, many brain components already operate near their upper temperature limits. Even slight increases in temperature or humidity can disrupt their delicate interplay.

The Domino Effect

When the environment becomes excessively hot and humid, a domino effect can occur. Here's how it plays out:

  • Temperature Regulation Issues: Our bodies struggle to regulate temperature, leading to malfunction.
  • Disrupted Sleep: Heatwaves disrupt sleep, worsening conditions like epilepsy.
  • Dehydration and Blood Clots: Higher temperatures and dehydration can thicken blood, increasing the risk of strokes.
  • Medication Interference: Some medications used for neurological and psychiatric conditions can further hinder the body's ability to react to heat.

The Impact on Brain Conditions

The consequences of climate change on brain health are far-reaching. Here are some examples:

  • Increased Hospital Admissions: Admissions for dementia, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis rise with higher temperatures.
  • Stroke Risk: The incidence of strokes and stroke-related deaths increases.
  • Mental Health Concerns: Many psychiatric conditions, like schizophrenia, worsen with extreme temperatures.

The Global Scope of the Problem

Millions of people worldwide are living with neurological and psychiatric conditions. These individuals are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change:

  • Epilepsy: Roughly 60 million people globally have epilepsy.
  • Dementia: Over 55 million people have dementia worldwide, with a significant portion living in low- and middle-income countries. Projections estimate this number to reach over 150 million by 2050.
  • Stroke: Stroke is the second leading cause of death globally and a major cause of disability.

Taking Action

While tackling climate change on a large scale is crucial, there are steps we can take in the meantime:

  • Public health initiatives: Providing information about the risks of extreme weather events and temperature changes for individuals with neurological diseases.
  • Weather-health alert systems: Adapting existing systems to include warnings relevant to neurological conditions.
  • Community support: Working with affected individuals, families, and carers to develop and implement weather-health response plans.

The Bottom Line

Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it's a threat to brain health. By addressing this issue within neurological care and taking action against climate change, we can protect the very organ that allows us to live fulfilling lives.


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