A new study has found that living near a highway increases your risk of experiencing cognitive decline as you age. Although cognitive decline is a common attribute of growing older, many people don't realize that other factors may increase the odds of losing brain power.

According to the study, released in the online journal The Lancet, there is a clear link between living near a major road or highway, and the risk of developing dementia. The research found that compared to those whose homes were more than 300 meters (984 feet) away from a major road, those who lived within 50 meters (164 feet) of a major road had a seven percent increased risk of experiencing cognitive decline as they aged. The reason is unclear however; the researchers aren't sure if the decline is related to air pollution.

Read: Alzheimer's vs. Dementia: How They Differ And What To Do

“This study has identified major roads and air pollutants from traffic as possible risk factors for dementia, a finding which will need further investigation before any firm conclusions can be drawn about the relative risks of air pollutants for dementia versus other risks such as smoking, lack of exercise, or being overweight,” says David Reynolds, at the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, which was not affiliated with the study, New Scientist reported.

In addition to living near a major highway, past research has also suggested that anxiety and stress are also associated with an increased risk for cognitive decline, particularly in women. According to the 2014 study, women who had neurotic tendencies and introverted personalities were at the highest risk for developing dementia later in life. A lifetime of stress also increased this risk. Experiencing a natural disaster could also increase risk of developing dementia later on. According to one study, following natural disasters, most people focus on mental health issues like PTSD. It seems that these experiences may actually be able to speed up the onset of cognitive decline among the most vulnerable.

Source: Chen H, Kwong JC, Copes R, et al. Living near major roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis: a population-based cohort study. The Lancet. 2017

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