Exposome and unhealthy aging: environmental drivers from air pollution to occupational exposures

Geroscience. 2023 Dec;45(6):3381-3408. doi: 10.1007/s11357-023-00913-3. Epub 2023 Sep 9.


The aging population worldwide is facing a significant increase in age-related non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular and brain pathologies. This comprehensive review paper delves into the impact of the exposome, which encompasses the totality of environmental exposures, on unhealthy aging. It explores how environmental factors contribute to the acceleration of aging processes, increase biological age, and facilitate the development and progression of a wide range of age-associated diseases. The impact of environmental factors on cognitive health and the development of chronic age-related diseases affecting the cardiovascular system and central nervous system is discussed, with a specific focus on Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, small vessel disease, and vascular cognitive impairment (VCI). Aging is a major risk factor for these diseases. Their pathogenesis involves cellular and molecular mechanisms of aging such as increased oxidative stress, impaired mitochondrial function, DNA damage, and inflammation and is influenced by environmental factors. Environmental toxicants, including ambient particulate matter, pesticides, heavy metals, and organic solvents, have been identified as significant contributors to cardiovascular and brain aging disorders. These toxicants can inflict both macro- and microvascular damage and many of them can also cross the blood-brain barrier, inducing neurotoxic effects, neuroinflammation, and neuronal dysfunction. In conclusion, environmental factors play a critical role in modulating cardiovascular and brain aging. A deeper understanding of how environmental toxicants exacerbate aging processes and contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, VCI, and dementia is crucial for the development of preventive strategies and interventions to promote cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and brain health. By mitigating exposure to harmful environmental factors and promoting healthy aging, we can strive to reduce the burden of age-related cardiovascular and brain pathologies in the aging population.

Keywords: Accelerated aging; Aging; Biological age; Environmental pollution; Exposome; Toxicology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Exposome*
  • Occupational Exposure*