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Picking your nose may increase risk of Alzheimer's disease, study says

The next time someone tells you to stop picking your nose, they may be concerned for your brain health, not just your manners.
Picking your nose may increase risk of Alzheimer's disease, study says
Posted at 8:31 PM, Feb 06, 2024

Digging for gold might be cause for more concern than just your hygiene habits.

While the impolite act of picking your nose has often just been linked to uncleanliness, a new study says it's also linked to serious health issues — namely, a possible higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. 

The researchers behind the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Biomolecules and first reported by PEOPLE, state that the connection lies between external pathogens and the inflammation they can cause in the brain.

These external pathogens can be transferred from a person's fingers to their nose when they pick it, giving the microorganisms a direct route from the olfactory system to the brain. 

This overgrowth of germs from the nasal cavity could cause unnoticed brain infections marked by inflammation, which activates the release of amyloid-beta proteins. These proteins can build up and clump together in the spaces between nerve cells, and this build up is believed to be a crucial contributor to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

SEE MORE: Researchers testing out drug for Alzheimer's prevention

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, with at least 55 million people believed to have the disease globally as of 2022 — many of whom are above the age of 65.

The causes of the disease vary, but amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibers are some of the most common features in the brains of those with the disease.

Some risk factors — like age, genetics, and coexisting medical conditions — can't always be changed, but others like environment and lifestyle can potentially be improved to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's.

And while the study doesn't definitively state nose picking — called rhinotillexomania in medical terms — is a leading cause of Alzheimer's, it highlights the importance of noticing how germs are interacting with your immune system. 

So it likely can't hurt to cut the habit, but if you can't, the researchers say frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers should be "mandatory routine procedures for the incurable nose-picker."

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