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Alzheimer-s in women: stress could heighten risk


The possibility of developing Dementia is very real for women exposed to heightened levels of stress in their 30s to 50s.

The Prospective Population Study of Women, a study on 800 Swedish women spanning 40 years, was conducted by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg (published: BMJ Open) and found that the women who were subject to stressful events were at a 21% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  A hormone released in the body when it is placed under stress, can cause harmful changes in the brain, adversely affect blood pressure and blood sugar control.

According to the study, -This suggests that common psychosocial stressors may have severe and long-standing physiological and psychological consequences. As Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented by medication, stress preventative measures and therapies can prove valuable in fighting the development of this disease.

The women in the study, aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s, were subjected to long-term psychological testing, including neuropsychiatric tests in the first year that was repeated at regular intervals for 40 years.

Upon the study’s inception, about a fourth of the women in the study attested to the fact that they had experienced a stressful event up to that point. These stressors were quite severe, and included things like the loss of a partner or other loved ones, illness, addiction, unemployment, etc; with the most commonly found stressor to be mental illness in a close relative.

More findings came to the fore: a whopping 23% of the women confirmed that they went through at least two of these extremely stressful events, whereas one in every five women participating in the study was subjected to three of these stressors; 16% could identify four of these traumatic events in their lives.

Dementia was found in one in five women since the study began up to 2006. During that same time, at the average age of 78, 104 women fell victim to Alzheimer’s disease.

The research points to the fact that it took about 29 years after a stressful event took place for the women to start showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Of course the number of stressors played a key role in the likelihood of developing long-term cognitive deterioration. The women who had a major incident when they were middle-aged, were 15% more likely to show symptoms of Dementia, and 21% more likely to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in later years.

On BBC News, the independent Alzheimer’s researcher Dr Simon Ridley of Alzheimer’s Research UK said, -We know that the risk factors for Dementia are complex and our age, genetics and environment may all play a role. He suggests that the best way to fight the risk of Dementia is a balanced diet, regular exercise, no smoking, and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. He also advises that persons under severe stress should be proactive and visit their doctor to find solutions before their mental capacity starts to deteriorate.

Source: Michael Harper for – Your Universe Online.


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