How does climate change affect brain health? How does climate change affect brain health?

How does climate change affect brain health?

How does climate change affect brain health?
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A recent review found that climate change worsens symptoms of some brain conditions, such as stroke, migraine, meningitis, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Our brains are responsible for managing the environmental challenges we face, especially high temperatures and humidity, by stimulating sweating, for example.

Our bodies, and all of their components, function well within the environmental limits to which we have adapted over thousands of years. 

When environmental conditions change rapidly to unusual ranges, as is happening with the temperature and humidity extremes associated with climate change, the brain struggles to regulate temperature, and this is where the malfunction begins.

Some diseases can actually stop the sweating process necessary to keep the body cool, or our awareness that we are feeling too hot. Some medications used to treat neurological and psychiatric conditions further complicate the problem by undermining the body's ability to respond, which reduces sweating or disrupts the temperature regulation mechanism in the brain.

These effects are exacerbated by heat waves, which harm our sleep, and disturbed sleep increases the deterioration of some conditions, such as epilepsy. Symptoms may worsen in people with multiple sclerosis in extreme heat conditions. High temperatures can also make blood thicker and more likely to clot due to dehydration during heat waves, leading to strokes.

Experts say climate change affects many people with neurological conditions, often in many different ways.

Unseasonable local temperatures, larger than normal temperature fluctuations throughout the day, and adverse weather events, such as heat waves, storms, and floods, can exacerbate neurological conditions.

So, there is a great need to address climate change, but it may take years before serious efforts make a real difference. Meanwhile, people with neurological conditions can be helped by providing personalized information about the risks of adverse weather events and extreme temperatures.

The report was prepared by Sanjay Sisodia, Professor of Neuroscience, and Mark Maslin, Professor of Natural Sciences at UCL.

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