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Alzheimer's disease: Nose-picking and 5 unhealthy habits that can lead to dementia

By, New Delhi
Apr 26, 2023 03:09 PM IST

Nose-picking is a common habit that many people engage in without giving it much thought. However, it may put one at risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly eats away your memories, thinking skills and eventually strips you off the ability to do the simplest of everyday tasks. As per several studies, the build-up of toxic proteins called beta amyloid and tau can lead to Alzheimer's. However what leads to this accumulation still remains largely unclear. As per recent research, there is a link between the habit of nose picking and Alzheimer's disease. According to this study the act of nose-picking may damage certain internal tissues which could make the entry of certain species of bacteria into the brain easier. Once these bacteria reach the brain, they end up causing symptoms similar to Alzheimer's. However, the study may have its limitation as it's conducted on mice. (Also read: Alzheimer's disease can be predicted by sugar molecule in blood: Study)

Alzheimer's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, continues to be a major concern for the ageing population(Pexels)
Alzheimer's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, continues to be a major concern for the ageing population(Pexels)

"Alzheimer's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, continues to be a major concern for the ageing population. While factors such as genetics and age are well-established risk factors for Alzheimer's, recent research has uncovered a surprising link between seemingly harmless habits, such as nose-picking, and an increased risk of developing this debilitating condition," says Dr Madhukar Bhardwaj, Senior Consultant & HOD, Neurology, Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi.

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"Nose-picking is a common habit that many people engage in without giving it much thought. However, recent studies have shed light on how habitual and aggressive nose-picking could potentially impact brain health and contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease," adds Dr Bhardwaj.

"According to a study, nose picking can be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as it can damage the nasal cavity, and then the bacteria can enter the brain via the olfactory nerve. Furthermore, you will be shocked to know that once the bacteria enter the brain it can lead to the deposition of amyloid beta protein which is the potential factor behind Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Amyloid beta later induces plaque-formation and one may have worrisome symptoms such as memory loss, language problems, and impulsive behaviour," says Dr Sheetal Radia, Consultant Otorhinolaryngology and Head & Neck, Onco-surgery, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road.

The hidden dangers of nose-picking

Nose-picking involves using fingers or other objects to remove mucus from the nasal passages. While occasional and gentle nose-picking may not cause harm, habitual and aggressive nose-picking can lead to chronic inflammation and damage to the delicate nasal lining.

"The nasal cavity is directly connected to the brain through the olfactory nerve, which is responsible for our sense of smell. The olfactory nerve has a direct pathway to the brain's hippocampus, a region critical for memory and learning. Chronic inflammation in the nasal cavity caused by aggressive nose-picking could trigger an inflammatory response in the hippocampus, leading to damage to brain cells and the accumulation of abnormal proteins, such as amyloid plaques and tau tangles hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer's disease," says Dr Bhardwaj.

Other habits that can impact brain health

"Apart from that, one having a severe head injury or hearing loss or untreated depression can also get detected with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in later life. It is better to take speak to an expert and don't ignore symptoms such as memory loss, forgetfulness, and a change in behaviour that are confusion and irritability. You need to stay vigilant when it comes to your health," says Dr Radia.

In addition to nose picking, other habits that impact brain health and increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease are the following as per Dr Bhardwaj:

• Poor sleep: Sleep plays a crucial role in brain health, as it allows the brain to rest, recharge, and consolidate memories. Chronic sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.

Sedentary lifestyle: Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little or no physical activity has been associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Regular physical exercise has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, promote the growth of new brain cells, and support cognitive function.

• Unhealthy diet: A diet high in processed foods, unhealthy fats, and added sugars has been linked to inflammation, oxidative stress, and other factors that could potentially increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

• Chronic stress: Prolonged stress, especially when not effectively managed, can have detrimental effects on brain health.

• Social isolation: Lack of social engagement and social isolation has been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.

"As research continues to unravel the complexities of Alzheimer's disease, it becomes increasingly crucial to raise awareness about the potential impact of certain habits on brain health. While genetics and other factors are beyond our control, we have the power to make positive lifestyle choices to promote brain health as we age. Practising gentle and infrequent nose-blowing rather than aggressive nose-picking, getting adequate sleep, engaging in regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, managing stress effectively, and staying socially active are all important steps towards promoting brain health and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease," says Dr Bhardwaj.

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