Life is full of stresses. And we know that stress is a leading cause of disease. Well The University of Southampton is beginning studies to determine whether there is actually a link between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 5.4 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s—or roughly one in eight older Americans. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and the only cause of the death in the top 10 that does not have a cure, or a way to prevent or slow its effects. While the Obama Administration hopes to find a cure by 2025, Britain is also actively researching and pursuing this frustrating, debilitating and perplexing disease as they also have an aging population reaching 65+ in record numbers.
The U.K.’s University of Southampton is conducting a study, sponsored by the British Alzheimer’s Society—an England-based charity that is working to improve the lives of those diagnosed with dementia—to help determine the impacts stress has on developing dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society points out that many health problems—including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis—have been linked to chronic stress. And Washington University School of Medicine recently discovered that lack of sleep might very well be tied to Alzheimer’s disease. But very minimal research has been done to show the effects of stress on mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, which is why University of Southampton is taking the lead.
Stress and Dementia: A Symbiotic Relationship?
Stress causes our immune systems to shut down and let disease in. It is, literally, a catalyst for disease. And while dementia has been linked to a genetic predisposition, there are still many unknown causes for affecting such a large population. Head trauma has also been linked. Lack of sleep could be a contributing factor. A Swedish study showed that women exposed to stress during middle ages had a 65 percent higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s. And Scottish research on animals linked memory problems to hormones released in response to stress. So it’s safe to assume stress might also be a leading cause. Well, not really… It’s not safe to assume anything. It’s only a likely hypothesis…
The U.K. Stress Study
The U.K. experiment will involve 140 people over the age of 50 with mild cognitive impairment, with a control group of 70 people who don’t suffer from any memory problems. The subjects’ levels of stress and number of stressful life events, as well as their progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, will be recorded for 18 months. Samples of blood and saliva will be also taken every six months to keep track of cortisol, a steroid hormone that is released by the body in response to stress.
Professor Clive Holmes is helping to lead the study and mentions in a press release. “We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s. He goes on to say that “there is a lot of variability in how quickly the progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia happens; one factor increasingly implicated in the process is chronic stress. That could be driven by a big change – usually negative – such as a prolonged illness, injury or a major operation.”
Stay tuned on this study! And learn some Alzheimer’s Warning Signs.
What do you think about this topic? Do you think stress is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s? If so, please feel free to comment below.