Stress & AD

A new report shows that a third of all elderly people die with signs of some form of dementia, highlighting the need for continued treatment before the rate nearly triples in the next 35 years. 

However, new research into stress-induced Alzheimer’s shows potential for understanding how living with chronic stress impacts the brain and what scientists can explore for a potential treatment or cure.

One in Three Elderly Die With Dementia

One in three elderly die with some form of dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association announced in its annual report Tuesday.

While Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia—is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., deaths attributed to it rose 68 percent from 2000-2010.

It is the only leading cause of death without a way to slow its progression, and an estimated 5 million Americans currently have it, but that number is predicted to reach 13.8 million by 2050. 

Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, said the new report released Tuesday highlights the importance of research to slow the diseases’ progression and hopefully someday find a cure.

“Unfortunately, today there are no Alzheimer’s survivors. If you have Alzheimer's disease, you either die from it or die with it,” he said in the report.  

Could Chronic Stress Cause Alzheimer’s?

Various kinds of stress have been known to cause a host of problems in the body, including increasing a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s. How it does, however, hasn’t been very clear until lately.

Researchers at the Umea University in Sweden believe they’ve come closer to understanding the mechanism involved where stress increases a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s. 

In her doctorial thesis, PhD student Sara Bengtsson investigated if elevations of the stress hormone allopreg­nanolone caused stressed-induced plaques in a person’s brain, causing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Testing her theory in mice by injecting them with stress hormones and testing their cognitive ability, Bengtsson found that chronic elevation of allopreg­nanolone accelerated the development of Alzheimer’s-like plaques in their brains. 

“Allopregnanolone may be an important link in the mechanism behind stress-induced AD,” the study concluded, adding more research is needed to fully understand its influence.

Bengstsson is scheduled to publicly defend her thesis at Umea University on Friday.

What Can You Do?

While there is currently no cure or effective treatment to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, reducing your daily stress can help lower your risk for numerous deadly conditions, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and possibly even cancer. 

Explore the links below to learn more about Alzheimer’s and how you can lower your daily stress levels.

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