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Doctors see link between mid-life stress and old age dementia

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Divorce, losing a partner, losing a parent, losing a child and struggling with problems in the work place is all common sources of adulthood stress. A new medical study has found that problems in middle-age could increase your risk of suffering dementia in later life. Conditions such as Alzheimer's, doctors found, may be linked to the amount of stress experienced up to four decades earlier.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Negative life events can have "severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences" in the brain, the study claims. 

The study investigated the effects of stress on middle-aged women. Beginning in 1968, 800 Swedish women underwent neuropsychiatric tests, which were repeated in the years of 1974, 1980, 1992, 2000 and 2005.

The test subjects, born in the years 1914, 1918, 1922 and 1930 were asked if and how they had suffered from the impact of 18 different types of dramatic events, better known as psychosocial stressors.

One in four women had suffered at least one stressful event, 23 percent reported two, one in five had suffered three and 16 percent had been through four or more.

During the assessment period, 19 percent, or 153 of them developed dementia, with 104 of these being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

According to the report, "Common stressors may have severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences.

"The number of psychosocial stressors measured in middle-aged women was related to distress and incidence of Alzheimer's disease almost four decades later."

An increase in stress hormones in the body can cause harmful changes in the brain associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and dementia.

As found in Holocaust survivors, higher levels of stress hormones can even be measured several decades after traumatic events. They called for more investigations to assess whether more therapy should be given to people who suffer from stressful events in their lives.

"We all go through stressful events. Understanding how these events may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease is key to helping us find ways of preventing or treating the condition," Dr. Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society says.

Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research U.K., adds that "These types of studies are important for highlighting areas for further investigation.

"From this study, it is hard to know whether stress contributes directly to the development of dementia, whether it is an indicator of another underlying risk factor, or whether the link is due to an entirely different factor."

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Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)