Anxiety May Increase Cognitive Decline

A new study shows that people who have mild cognitive impairment and also experience high levels of anxiety are 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This new study adds to previous research that shows the importance of lifestyle choices and stress management in Alzheimer’s prevention. Learn more about this study and the effects of anxiety on the brain. 

Anxiety May Increase Cognitive Decline

Effects of Anxiety on the Brain

Researchers from Baycrest Health Sciences’ Rotman Research Institute in Canada have published a new study that shows people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and high levels of stress are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The article, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry  evaluated 376 adults who had been diagnosed with MCI. They studied cognitive changes in participants every six months and found those participants who had severe anxiety were 135% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Those with mild anxiety were 33% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and those with moderate anxiety had an increased risk of 78%.

While the study clearly shows that people with MCI who have anxiety are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s, it is not clear if reducing anxiety will also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Dr. Linda Mah who led the research team said that,

“We cannot tell from this study whether interventions to reduce anxiety will also reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease…we need future studies to answer this question.”

Making Life Changes to Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope that their study will encourage people with MCI who are experiencing anxiety to get help and engage in positive lifestyle choices that will reduce anxiety earlier. Dr. Mah added, “I am hoping that people with MCI who are experiencing stress or anxiety but are not able to find the time, or are putting off, engaging in those lifestyle interventions like exercise will be more strongly motivated to do so as a result of our study’s findings”.

Another recent study showed that Alzheimer’s symptoms were able to reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease with comprehensive lifestyle changes. While no cure has been found for Alzheimer’s, doctors and scientists agree the following lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s:

  • Regular physical exercise
  • Eating a Mediterranean diet which includes fruits, vegetables and fish
  • Prevent head trauma by wearing seat belts, helmets and protecting against falls
  • Limiting sugar intake
  • Remain mentally active by participating in mentally stimulating activities

How do you manage anxiety in your senior loved one? How do you manage your own anxiety as a caregiver? Please share in the comments below.

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