Stress May Trigger Alzheimer's Disease In The Elderly

Posted: Dec 13 2015, 8:41pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Stress Increases Risk for Pre-Alzheimer’s Condition in Elderly
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New study finds a connection between chronic stress and mild cognitive impairment.

Stress contributes to many health problems including high blood pressure, muscle stiffness and depression. Now researchers have found that stress can also trigger mild cognitive impairment in older adults, which is often a prelude to Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers, highly stressed out people are at twice as high of a risk of developing mild cognitive impairment than those who are not.  

Researchers examined the data of 507 elderly people who were enrolled in the community called Einstein Aging Study. All the participants have gone through several assessments including clinical evaluations, psychosocial measures, medical history as well as reports on memory and cognitive issues every year.

To assess stress levels, the institute uses the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), a widely-used psychological instrument designed to measure chronic stress. All participants were free of amnestic mild cognitive decline (aMCI) or dementia when they were examined initially but in the follow up sessions, which were carried out for almost four subsequent years, 71 of 507 participants were diagnosed with aMCI.

The study suggests that the greater the patient's level of stress, the greater the risk of developing mild cognitive decline. High levels of stress are associated with 2.5 percent greater risk of cognitive impairment. But since stress is treatable, medical treatment and care can help delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study provides strong evidence that perceived stress increases the likelihood that an older person will develop aMCI,” said co-author, Richard Lipton. “Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, making it a potential target for treatment.”  

Each year, around 470,000 Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia and many of them first suffer mild cognitive decline which high likely turn into Alzheimer’s disease in the following months or years.

“Perceived stress reflects the daily hassles we all experience, as well as we appraise and cope with the events,” said Mindy Katz, lead author of the study. “Perceived stress can be altered by mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapies and stress reducing drugs. These interventions may postpone or even prevent an individual’s cognitive decline.” 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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