How Rural Living Can Impact Brain Health

November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. New research from Cleveland Clinic shows how where you live could possibly, in some cases, impact your risk for the disease.

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CLEVELAND – November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

Previous research has shown that those living in rural areas may be at higher risk for developing the disease.

However, a Cleveland Clinic study has made a new discovery.

“We looked at the memory function for individuals who are enrolled in our rural focused study and compared that to a sister study from an urban dwelling cohort,” explained Justin Miller, PhD, neuropsychologist for Cleveland Clinic. “And what we found was indeed surprising. We found that the individuals from our rural communities actually had a memory advantage.”? 

Dr. Miller said it’s unclear why, in some cases, individuals in rural communities may have better memory.

There are different theories, like the fact that life in those areas is often simpler.

For example, the road grid may be easier to navigate.

There are also lower rates of air pollution and increased greenspace – both which have been shown to help promote healthy aging.

Dr. Miller said their research is ongoing, and there’s a lot they’d still like to learn.  

“Our challenge now is to try to understand the individual factors that we can learn from and identify who is at risk from a rural or disadvantaged area and who might benefit from living in a rural area,” he said.

Dr. Miller notes that rural communities tend to be medically underserved, so the goal with this research is to ultimately help with better intervention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, no matter where you live. 

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