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Is Stress a Risk Factor for Alzhimer's Disease?

- Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is chronic stress as a risk factor for developing dementia? A UK research team, funded by the Alzheimer's Society, is about to begin a new study to find out.

Clive Holmes, Professor of Biological Psychiatry at the University of Southampton will be investigating the role that chronic stress plays in the progression of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's Disease.

MCI is a recent term used to describe the signs people show when they begin to experience thinking and memory problems, but do not actually have dementia.

Alzheimer's Disease happens when the chemistry and structure of the brain changes causing brain cells to perish. It is the most common type of dementia. About 60% per cent of people with MCI are known to go on to develop Alzheimer's Disease.

A lot of research has been done on the link between stress and diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis, showing that chronic stress can speed up the progression, or make the symptoms worse.

However, surprisingly little research has been done on the link between stress and MCI or Alzheimer's.

Anne Corbett, research manager for the Society said, "we feel this is a really important area of research that needs more attention. The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition."

Stressful experiences could speed up the development of Alzheimer's, say researchers.

By better understanding how stress might be a risk factor for Alzheimer's, as well as the underlying biology, the researchers hope to offer new information that can help develop better psychological treatments and drugs that can be used earlier in the progression of the disease.

Holmes said there is a lot of variability in how quickly the progression from MCI to Alzheimer's happens, for some people the progression is slow, for others it is much faster. But we know from other studies that one possible factor is stress.

"We are looking at two aspects of stress relief - physical and psychological - and the body's response to that experience," he explained.

Original article – Medical News Today