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New Reports Suggest Stress May Speed Alzheimer's

Mild cognitive issues have become more and more commonly associated with Alzheimer’s and the risk of developing the disease. Now, new information has surfaced proving that stress may also be a factor that could lead to a further increase in the risk of possibly encountering this disease in the future. A recent study shows that anxiety may speed up the decline in mental health that affects those with cognitive impairment issues. This means that not only does stress make it more likely that somebody will develop Alzheimer’s, but that it might fast track the problem. These cognitive issues are things like slower memory or problem solving skills that are mild enough to notice, but not so severe that they make it impossible to deal with everyday activities. Medical News Today expresses: “According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies estimate that around 10-20% of people aged 65 and older have MCI. Many individuals with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease within a few years of diagnosis.”

This is substantial when you think about how many people this affects, and that each of those individuals are already more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Those who also suffer from anxiety will now face a much faster decline in mental health.

The Latest Study Setup

Dr. Linda Mah, who works in the University of Toronto in the Department of Psychiatry as an assistant professor led this latest research topic to find that anxiety and depression are both major risk factors in the development of this disease. They found that anxiety in the above mentioned MCI patients actually caused an increase in the possibility of Alzheimer’s by a hundred and thirty five percent. The study was completed over a period of three years, with a total of three hundred and seventy-six patients being monitored. The patients ranged in ages from fifty-five to ninety-one, and they each shared the inability to recall dates, conversations, appointments and other important information, which is caused by amnestic MCI. The team recorded whether or not each patient suffered from depression or anxiety as well as any changes that occurred in the structure of their brains where cognitive function takes place.

What They Learned

What the researchers concluded was that the patients with MCI had an increased risk of thirty-three percent, with anxiety increasing the risk by seventy-eight percent to one hundred and thirty-five percent depending on the severity of the anxiety. They also found that there were high levels of brain shrinkage due to stress, and that the regions that saw this atrophy were those that were relevant to the Alzheimer’s disease development. Depression was not a huge problem among these patients, as none of them reported any significant depression throughout the study.

How This Information Should Change Treatment For MCI

The above findings point to a few different treatment programs that should be taken into consideration, but perhaps one of the most prominent is the need for immediate attention to those patients who show signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in combination with MCI. Routine therapy and screening for high anxiety levels could bring this number down significantly, and help patients develop more normally as life progresses. Psych Central says: “A number of illnesses are known to develop earlier or are made worse by chronic stress, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis. But until now, minimal research has been performed on the effect of stress among people with cognitive impairment and if stress can influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease.”

This new information in regards to the possible prevention of Alzheimer’s may also lead to a completely new way to recognize the risks for other diseases and disorders and could even help in the treatment of some. Anxiety and stress can be treated with a number of medications, but there are alternative routes that can be taken as well including verbal therapy plans with trained professionals, group sessions, and even changes to lifestyles such as nutrition and exercise. Many people who suffer from these forms of overstimulation also turn to more natural cures like bulking up on vitamins that may be deficient as well as homeopathic treatments.

Higher Cause For Concern In Cases With Women

One other recent fact that has surfaced is that these increases in the risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive related diseases are much stronger for women when dealing with high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Many studies have come to find that this is especially true of women ages forty-five and up. Fisher Center For Alzheimer’s Research Foundation says: “Women who experience a lot of stress in middle age are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia late in life, according to a new report. The findings come from a study of 800 women living in Sweden who were followed for nearly four decades.”

The study found that women who suffered from moderate to high levels of stress on a regular basis developed dementia related illnesses much faster than those who reported feeling relaxed. This isn’t to say that women who lead healthy, low stress lives are immune to these types of disorders, only that the addition of stress tends to be a much higher risk factor, and something that causes these illnesses to surface faster and take over more rapidly.

If you’re suffering from anxiety or stress and have fears about the possible development of future illnesses such as Alzheimer’s due to this problem, speak to your physician about possible treatments.

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