Could picking your nose be bad for your brain? According to one report, it could be possible. However, an expert says, there’s not need to panic if you engage in the bad habit.
A recent review paper published in the journal Biomolecules explored the potential relationship between nose-picking and the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which may be related via neuroinflammation.
Recent evidence suggests that neuroinflammation, or the swelling of nervous tissue, including tissue in the brain, may play at least a partial role in Alzheimer’s disease. According to the paper’s authors, beta-amyloid, a protein believed to be a factor in causing Alzheimer’s, may be produced by the brain in response to certain pathogens.
One way for these pathogens to get into your nose and interact with your brain? A dirty finger up the nostril.
While the idea of a simple action that, let’s be honest, many of us partake in could potentially contribute to something as serious as Alzheimer’s sounds scary, the conclusion should be handled with some skepticism.
Here’s what we know.
Does picking your nose cause Alzheimer’s?
Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, explained to that the report did not present new evidence obtained through an experiment, but was rather an overview of previously published studies in a growing area of Alzheimer’s research.
Specifically, the study of potential microbial/viral contributions to Alzheimer’s, or the idea that the presence of certain microorganisms or viruses could play a role in the development of the condition.
The authors of this specific paper suggest, but do not prove, that microbes or viruses may enter the brain through the nose and could possibly be linked to the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, there is currently no definitive evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship, said Snyder.
“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with many contributing factors. There are likely multiple causes that contribute to the underlying biology of the disease,” she said. “Increasingly, we know the immune system plays an important role in the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s – there are an increasing number of clinical trials targeting immune-related mechanisms.”
What does cause dementia and Alzheimer’s?
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Scientists have been working for years to get to the root of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have determined that it likely does not have one single cause but develops as a result of multiple factors, including genetics, lifestyle, environment and other medical conditions, Snyder said.
“Scientists have identified factors that may make an individual more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s,” she said. “While some of these risk factors — age, family history and heredity — can’t be changed, emerging evidence suggests there may be other factors we can influence.”
What can you do to help prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s?
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While there is no guaranteed way to prevent the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s, taking care of your health and maintaining good habits can help. Snyder pointed to the Alzheimer’s Association list of 10 Healthy Habits for Your Brain, which include:
- Engage in regular exercise with activities that raise your heart rate and increase blood flow.
- Challenge your mind with activities like learning new skills, taking classes, doing puzzles or making art.
- Stay in school and continue your education in adulthood, as ongoing education reduces the risk of cognitive decline.
- Prevent injuries to your head and take precautions such as wearing a helmet and seatbelt when appropriate.
- Be smoke-free, as stopping at any time can lower the risk of cognitive decline.
- Control blood pressure and keep it in a healthy range by eating right, staying active and taking medication if needed.
- Manage diabetes through a healthy lifestyle, which can also prevent type 2 from developing in the first place, and proper medical care.
- Get good quality sleep, which is important for brain health. Stay off screens before bed and practice good sleep hygiene.
- Eat right by including more vegetables, leaner meats/proteins, and foods that are less processed and lower in fat to your diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight through proper diet, exercise and sleep.
Should you keep picking your nose?
As for nose-picking? Snyder said that though we don’t yet know whether or not there is a connection between nose-picking and Alzheimer’s risk, practicing good hygiene is still good for your overall health.
As such, refraining from picking your nose and washing your hands thoroughly and often are still best practices everyone should employ for their overall health.