Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Can Anxiety Increase the Risk of Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's Brain

There has long been a connection between depression and Alzheimer's. The former has been found to speed up the development of the disease. It is also a common symptom of those dealing with early stages of diagnosis. While there has been much research done to better understand the ties between depression and this degenerative brain disease, little research has been conducted about anxiety. That is all changing. New research is taking a closer look at the affect anxiety can have on the development of Alzheimer's disease.

A study conducted at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute of Toronto (which was supported by the United States National Institutes of Health) decided to look into anxiety and how it relates to Alzheimer's. The study was made up of 376 adults between the ages of 55 and 91. Over three years, patients would report when they felt anxious. For instance, if they were separated from a loved one or a caregiver. Or if they experienced symptoms related to anxiety, like nervousness, shaking, or shortness of breath. The results of the study were interesting to say the least. They revealed that those with mild anxiety had a 33% higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. For those that experienced moderate levels of anxiety, that number jumped to 78%. Lastly, men and women who experienced high or severe levels of anxiety had an increased risk of 135%.

The study, which was published in the online version of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, is unlike any other. This is because the study is the first of its kind. Never before has anxiety been explored as a factor in the development of Alzheimer's. The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Linda Mah said, "I think we need to take anxiety more seriously." Why is this the case? The results of the study indicated that people with high levels of anxiety or anxiety related disorders tend to have higher levels of cortisol. Over time, that can cause damage to the hippocampus. This is important to properly process memories and emotions. Knowing this, it becomes clear how anxiety can speed up or increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

What does it all mean? Finding ways to reduce stress and anxiety is key. By learning to deal with anxiety in a positive way, you can improve your overall health and even reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in the future. That makes it especially important to explore stress-reducing techniques now. Reducing stress has been found to improve the quality of life for men and women of all ages. It can also lead to a better quality of sleep. That helps to clear pathologic proteins. When they build up, it can increase the risk of developing dementia and other memory related diseases.

Anxiety is a serious problem, especially as it relates to Alzheimer's. That makes stress reduction vital. According to Dr. Linda Mah, "people really need to take care of the stress they experience in their lives - and try to live in the present." While further research will continue on the topic of anxiety, one thing is clear: now is the time to focus on living a stress free life. It can impact your health in extraordinary ways.

Are you looking for more information about aging related memory loss? Contact the Age Matters Clinic at: 647-268-0620. We understand how to improve the life of Alzheimer's and memory loss patients.