Chronic stress can have harmful effects on both the body and the mind. It may be just as damaging to our brains. Researchers have found possible associations between chronic stress, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the study, individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 who had previously been diagnosed with depression and/or chronic stress were more likely than other people to receive a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.
Karolinska Institutet researchers have addressed potential links between mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic stress in a paper published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy. According to the study, individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 who had previously been diagnosed with depression and/or chronic stress were more likely than other people to receive a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. The likelihood of having cognitive impairment was increased similarly.
What is Chronic Stress?
When a patient experiences stress without having a chance to recover, it is considered that they are suffering from chronic stress for at least half a year.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain ailment that gradually impairs thinking and memory abilities as well as the capacity to do even the most basic duties. For most patients with the condition, symptoms initially manifest in their mid-60s if they have the late-onset variant. Rarely does early-onset Alzheimer’s develop in people between the ages of thirty and sixty-five. The most prevalent cause of dementia in older persons is Alzheimer’s disease.
What is dementia?
The loss of cognitive abilities, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to the point where it interferes with day-to-day activities, is known as dementia. Some dementia patients experience emotional instability and personality changes as a result. The intensity of dementia varies; at its mildest, it only starts to interfere with a person’s ability to function; at its most severe, it renders a person totally dependent on others for even the most basic daily functions, including feeding themselves.
In Sweden, 160,000 people suffer from dementia in one way or another, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for most cases. This number is increasing as people live longer. The necessity to find more risk factors for the condition has been highlighted by the development of numerous innovative early intervention therapies and diagnostic techniques in recent years.
Association between chronic stress and depression
Previous research has suggested a link between persistent stress, depression, and dementia. According to the current study, individuals with a history of depression or chronic stress are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the study, individuals with depression and/or chronic stress had a risk of Alzheimer’s disease that was more than twice as high as that of individuals without either illness; in those who had both conditions, the risk was as high as four times.
The link enables to improve preventative efforts and links with other risk factors for dementia
“The risk is still very small, and the causality is unknown,” says the study’s last author Axel C. Carlsson, docent at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet. “That said, the finding is important in that it enables us to improve preventative efforts and understand links with the other risk factors for dementia.”
The administrative healthcare database of Region Stockholm, which includes all healthcare contacts paid for by the region, was used for the study. Patients between the ages of 18 and 65 who were treated between 2012 and 2013 were the focus of the study. For eight years, they tracked 44,447 individuals who had been diagnosed with depression, chronic stress, or both to determine how many of them went on to receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
When compared to the 1,362,548 other adults in the same age range, a higher proportion of those with long-term stress or depression also had mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed.
“It’s very uncommon for people in this age group to develop dementia, so we need to identify all possible risk factors for the disease,” says Dr Carlsson. “We show here that the diagnosis is more common in people who have suffered chronic stress or depression, but more studies will be required if we’re to demonstrate any causality there.”
The scientists will now carry out their research and create surveys and cognitive assessments to help identify individuals who may be at risk of dementia early on.
The research was carried out in collaboration with the Academic Primary Care Centre (APC) and funded by Region Stockholm.
Materials provided by Karolinska Institutet; https://www.nia.nih.gov/. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Johanna Wallensten, Gunnar Ljunggren, Anna Nager, Caroline Wachtler, Nenad Bogdanovic, Predrag Petrovic, Axel C. Carlsson. Stress, depression, and risk of dementia – a cohort study in the total population between 18 and 65 years old in Region Stockholm. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 2023; 15 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13195-023-01308-4
Karolinska Institutet. “Study indicates possible link between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/10/231002124415.htm>.
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