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Climate change likely to impact people with brain conditions: Study

Discover how climate change impacts brain health, according to recent research published in The Lancet Neurology journal. Learn about the effects of extreme temperatures on conditions like migraine, Alzheimer's, and psychiatric disorders.

Written By: Rahul Pratyush @29_pratyush New Delhi Published on: May 19, 2024 12:47 IST
Climate change
Image Source : AP Climate change may affect those with brain conditions

Recent research published in The Lancet Neurology journal suggests that climate change is expected to have a negative impact on the health of individuals with brain conditions like migraine and Alzheimer's. Lead researcher Sanjay Sisodiya from the University College London's Institute of Neurology, UK, explained that extreme temperatures, whether high or low, as well as significant fluctuations throughout the day, which are driven by climate change, were found to affect brain diseases.

"Night-time 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," he said.

The analysis, which examined 332 publications spanning from 1968 to 2023, focused on 19 various nervous system disorders, including stroke, migraine, Alzheimer's, meningitis, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. The researchers observed a rise in hospital admissions, disabilities, or fatalities caused by strokes during periods of elevated temperatures or heatwaves.

Furthermore, they noted that individuals with dementia are at risk of harm from extreme temperatures and severe weather occurrences like floods and wildfires, as their cognitive impairment may limit their capacity to adapt to environmental changes.

The team also examined how climate change impacted several serious yet common psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Sisodiya said that climate anxiety was "an added, potentially weighty influence".

"Many brain conditions are associated with a higher risk of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, and such multimorbidities can further complicate impacts of climate change and the adaptations necessary to preserve health," he said.

With extreme weather events becoming more severe and global temperatures rising, the researchers acknowledged that people 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. Therefore, they said, it was important to ensure that research is up to date, and looks at not only the present state of climate change but also the future.

"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 organisations," said Sisodiya.

Forward planning is made more challenging as few studies estimate the consequences for brain diseases under future climate scenarios, he said.

(with PTI inputs)

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