Dr. Joseph Sirven: Location, Location, Location

Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 2:27pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (5.69 MB)
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
Dr. Joseph Sirven.

When it comes to dementia prevention, realtors may have the right advice. Medical commentator Dr. Joseph Sirven explains.


On a recent vacation at the beach, every morning I encountered the same friendly woman and her dog. One day, I asked, “do you live here or just vacation here?”  She answered, “I used to vacation here but I decided to move because every time I got here I realized I could think more clearly; my memory seemed to even get better.”

Incredulous, I asked, “Maybe it’s all vacation.”

She responded, “I used to think so but now I live here year round and I’m able to think more clearly than when I lived back in a busy city ... You should think about it and try it yourself!"

My new friend may have a point about memory and where you live. Recently, in a Canadian study of 4.4 million people who lived in Ontario, Canada, researchers looked at individuals who had had a diagnosis of either Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or dementia and by linking it to their zip code they were able to ascertain where people lived and whether where they lived increased their risk of having one of these three conditions.  

The investigators found that there was no relationship between Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis in where individuals lived; whereas, people who have dementia seemed to have a higher risk of this diagnosis if they lived less than 165 feet  from a major highway.  This was especially true for urban residents that live in the city, who never moved.  The risk for Alzheimer’s increased to 4 percent in people living between 160 and 320 feet from a busy road and no difference in risk if they lived farther than 650 feet a busy road.

A separate study published by a different group looked at people who currently lived in California, to assess whether where they were born influenced the risk of dementia. They found that those born in states considered part of the U.S. "stroke belt" — mostly in the Midwest and the Southeast and, by the way, does not include Arizona — their risk of dementia also increased even if they moved away from the stroke belt.

Both studies suggest that for some where you live seems to be as important as how you live. Clearly more studies are needed to tease out the important variables.  Is it lack of exercise or air and noise pollution? This brings me back to the lady on the beach. 

Somehow she proves what these studies seem to show.  When it comes to dementia, realtors may have been unwittingly right all along — it may be location, location and location.

If you like this story, Donate Now!

Like Arizona Science Desk on Facebook