According to a recent study, high levels of stress in the elderly may boost their risk of Alzheimer’s disease since stressed individuals were found to be twice as likely to develop a pre-dementia condition called mild cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that is more severe than age-related cognitive impairment, but a lot milder than the severe decline triggered by Alzheimer’s or dementia. A person affected by MCI may experience memory loss, may have some troubles with decision making or coping with new life situations, and problems with thinking and making judgments.
A research team from the Montefiore Health System’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City said that older persons that are exposed to out-of-the-ordinary levels of stress may see their risk of MCI, and therefore, Alzheimer’s rise twofold.
Dr. Richard Lipton, lead author of the study, recently noted that the risk of MCI rises whenever ‘perceived stress’ remains constantly at high levels. Lipton added that the good news is that perceived stress can be greatly alleviated through psychotherapy, drugs, and positive thinking.
The recent study involved 507 individuals of age 70 or older who had participated in an aging study conducted by Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Volunteers had their stress measured through a standardized tool called the Perceived Stress Scale, which was first used in 2005.
Study participants were monitored for 3.6 years, and their stress levels were constantly measured and given scores between zero and 56. Participants that scored higher had the higher perceived stress in the cohort study.
Tests showed that 71 participants were affected by amnestic MCI. Researchers also found that for every 5 points under the stress scale, the risk of MCI rose by 30 percent.
Mindy Katz, another researcher involved in the study, explained that perceived stress is made of the daily problems we usually have to overcome. If a person’s perceived stress levels are too high, a therapist can decide whether psychotherapy, stress-alleviating medications or other treatments are best for that person.
Dr. Katz noted that there is a link between perceived stress reduction and a reduction of the risk of being diagnosed with MCI.
According to the study’s background information, about 470,000 American adults are affected by Alzheimer’s disease on an annual basis. Study authors noticed that many of these people were first diagnosed with MCI, which often heralds the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the following years.
A research paper on the findings was recently published in the journal Alzheimer’s Disease and Associated Disorders.
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