A new study has found that stressful life experiences can age the brain approximately 1.5 years, and that, specifically, experiencing one of these 27 stressful life events could lead to Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia later in life.
Learn more about the effects of stress on brain health and the 27 life events that can cause damage and lead to Alzheimer’s.
The Effects of Stress on Brain Health
The latest study to evaluate the effects of stress on brain health was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health evaluated data from 1,320 participants who shared information about their own stressful life experiences and then participated in cognitive tests.
Researchers found that every stressful event was equal to 1.5 years of brain aging across all participants, except for African-Americans, where every stressful event was equal to 4 years of brain aging.
The study also found that African-Americans reported 60% more stressful events on average than Caucasians, which may help to explain why there is a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s there.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s Dr. Maria Carrillo, said:
“The stressful events were throughout the lifespan – a variety of things that you can imagine would be impactful and stressful. Dementia and brain health should be thought of as life-course issues, not just mid-life or late-life [problems]. We have to start thinking about brain health from birth, if not before.”
The link between Alzheimer’s and stress needs to be further examined, but researchers believes that stress can cause inflammation in the brain, making the brain more susceptible to health problems like dementia. Stress can also lead to depression, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and related forms of the disease.
The 27 Life Events That Can Damage the Brain, Lead to Alzheimer’s
These stressful life events have been linked to causing damage to the brain, which could lead to Alzheimer’s.
The likelihood of developing the disease could increase after experiencing just one of the events listed below:
- Being expelled or suspended from school
- Being fired from a job
- Being sent away from home
- Cheating partner
- Declaring bankruptcy
- Death of a child
- Death of a parent
- Death of a sibling
- Divorced parents
- Dropping out of college
- Dropping out of school
- Experiencing combat
- Facing long-term unemployment
- Financial or property loss
- Going on welfare
- In-law problems
- Joining the military
- Legal difficulties
- Loss of home to fire or flood
- Parent cannot find work
- Parent drinking excessively
- Parent using drugs
- Physical attack
- Prison sentence
- Repeating a year of school
- Serious accident involving child
- Sexual assault
Do you suspect that stressful life events can lead to Alzheimer’s and have you seen the effects of stress on brain health in your family? Share your stories with us in the comments below.