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Does Stress Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

How Does Stress Relate to Thinking Problems?

Alzheimer’s disease can be a powerful fear in the mind of aging people. It can also be a powerful fear for younger people who observe parents or grandparents slowly losing their memories. Such thoughts can create stress as you think about might happen to you or the people you care about.

The question is: What’s the relationship between stress and Alzheimer’s disease? Does stress actually cause the cognitive problems that are characteristic of the disease? Or is stress the result of the disease itself?

Research studies have attempted to answer such questions.

Keep reading to find out what research studies have found about the relationship between stress and the thinking problems of Alzheimer’s disease.

Increased stress could be a risk factor for the kind of thinking difficulties that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

However, the research did not prove that stress caused cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s.

“We know that, in general, stress makes it harder to think clearly,” said Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in the study. “But here’s data showing that stress may put us at risk for developing diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

The findings were published online Dec. 11 in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders.

The study authors gave questionnaires to just over 500 adults, aged 70 and older, asking about how much stress they experience. None of the adults had signs of dementia at the study’s start.

The researchers followed these adults for more than three years. Each year, the adults underwent a series of tests related to their daily living, their memory and their ability to think clearly.

Adults who perceived themselves to be under the most stress had a 30 percent greater risk of early cognitive impairment, according to the study. This risk remained after accounting for participants’ depression symptoms, age, sex, race, education level and genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The evidence suggests that perception of events is more important than the events themselves in predicting biological consequences and future health,” said study co-author Dr. Richard Lipton, vice chair of neurology at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “This is good news because perception of stressful events is amenable to intervention.”

Find out more about how stress and cognitive problems can be linked at WebMD News.  By Tara Haelle

[Original Post December 28, 2015]

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