Swedish researchers published the results of a long term dementia study, the results of which show that stress in middle age may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.
Too Much Stress?
The study reveals a simple and inexpensive method to cut back on your chances of developing Alzheimer’s: cut back on your daily stress.
At a time when Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 5 million Americans, the quest to understand the disease and other forms of dementia is not without consequence. Scientists continue to produce study after study in an attempt to further uncover the mysteries of this brain disease, and this research is yet another small component to the big picture.
The study followed 800 Swedish women born between 1914 and 1930 and tracked their levels of stress and incidence of dementia. Conducted over nearly a 40 year period, the tests were administered between the years of 1968 and 2005
The findings were simple: psychological stress was associated with a 21 percent greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Effect on Brain Health
According to the study, approximately ¼ of the women identified at least 1 point of stress in their life. The most commonly cited stress factor was mental illness in a family member. Over time, 1/5 of the women developed dementia at an average age of 78 years old.
Funded by the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the U.S. National Institutes on Aging among other organizations, the study sheds light on an area that has previously not received as much attention. While diet, exercise, and mental stimulation are often recommended as preventative measures to reduce dementia risk, stress reduction provides yet another solution without medication. Though it is not yet possible to tell whether the stress has a direct effect on dementia or is simply an indicator of another risk factor, the study provides a new starting point for other researchers interested in the subject.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently the 6th top killer in the United States, behind other major concerns like heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Focusing on ways to prevent Alzheimer’s seems to be more lucrative than attempts to cure or completely reverse the disease, something no research has figured out how to accomplish.
Cost of Dementia
The cost of the disease is high: a year in a nursing home runs an average of more than $94,000 in the United States. The emotional impact is high, as well. It can be very hard to deal with the aging of a loved one, especially if they begin to have trouble with communication or memory.
Preparing for this possibility is important as you begin to age, and that can mean a number of different things for different people. Whether increasing physical activity, improving your diet, or engaging in more mentally stimulated activities, taking steps to protect your brain from dementia can significantly help your chances of avoiding the disease.
Read more about the connection between depression and dementia or find out different ways to improve your health and maintain your active brain and body for as long as possible.