Researchers Find Connection Between Alzheimer’s, Stress

Stressed elderly man is comforted by elderly womanResearchers working with an animal model have found more evidence for a link between stress and Alzheimer’s. Most experts on the most common form of dementia believe the condition is caused by a complex interaction between genes, environment, and lifestyle factors. Recent research has focused on modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s.

Can Stress Cause Alzheimer’s?

Researchers tested the effects of stress on a mouse, then followed up with tests on human cells. The study began by exposing mice in a lab to acute stress. The researchers found that stress causes the release of corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF), a stress-related hormone in the brain. CRF then increases beta-amyloid proteins, one of which is associated with Alzheimer’s.

Researchers then tested the mice brains for the presence of beta-amyloid proteins. When this protein collects in the brain, it can start a degenerative process that ultimately leads to the development of Alzheimer’s. Mice exposed to the initial acute stress had higher levels of Alzheimer’s-related proteins.

To test this theory, the researchers exposed human neurons to CRF. The hormone increased the activity of an enzyme called gamma secretase. This chain reaction produced more beta-amyloid proteins, suggesting a higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer’s

This is not the first time research has pointed to the role of lifestyle and environment in producing Alzheimer’s. Earlier this year, researchers uncovered a number of modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Risk factors included a Body Mass Index significantly higher or lower than the “normal” mid-life range of 18.5 to 24.9. Type 2 diabetes among Asians, low and high blood pressure, depression, and narrowing of the carotid arteries also figured prominently.

Reducing stress is associated with a number of health benefits. If you are concerned about your own stress levels, therapy may help. Consider also trying some of the following:

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Get enough sleep each night.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Find ways to relax, such as meditation or yoga.
  • Spend time with loved ones who make you feel good.
  • Take up a new hobby, or embrace an old hobby you have always enjoyed.
  • When possible, avoid situations you know are likely to be stressful.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Only 45% of Alzheimer’s patients are told about the diagnosis.

References:

  1. 2015 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. (2015, September 17). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts/
  2. Learn to manage stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm
  3. Modifiable risk factors play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, study finds. (2015, August 20). Retrieved from http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/news_article.php?newsID=2441
  4. UF health researchers find some evidence of link between stress, Alzheimer’s disease. (2015, September 16). University of Florida. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-09/uof-uhr_1091615.php

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  • Mo

    Mo

    September 17th, 2015 at 10:58 AM

    I am a little confused because given that this is such a leading cause of death nationwide, then how is it that so few people are actually being given the diagnosis? Is it that there are so many people who are too far advanced in the dementia stages to be given this information or to understand the ramifications of that? If that is the case then it certainly feels like a diagnosis is being made far too late for someone to start making any kind of significant changes in their life to ward this off. So that means that if there are things that we can be doing to stop the growth of the disease then these are all things that we need to be focusing on right now today.

  • timothy

    timothy

    September 17th, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    Is this cold hard fact or is all of this just reaching for answers where there seems to be so few?

  • Sean

    Sean

    September 18th, 2015 at 11:29 AM

    There is so much wonderful evidence today about the benefits of taking care of yourself that it still astounds me that overall we are such an unhealthy society. I do firmly believe that there is a very strong link between our overall physical health that ties in with our mental well being and this is one of the biggest cases that I have seen. There is so much that we can do to keep ourselves healthy and it doesn’t involve taking a pill. Eat right, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle, one that is active, and think that would cure so many of the ailments that we see so prevalent today.

  • tabitha

    tabitha

    September 21st, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    Sean you are so right.

    We do so little to take care of this dutiful gift that we have been given,

  • Leila

    Leila

    September 22nd, 2015 at 10:22 AM

    So do you think that there is something that the stress hormones may trigger that would cause Alzheimer’s to emerge?

  • Marco

    Marco

    September 23rd, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    As the son of a mom with Alzheimer’s I can only say that even though I know the things that are being learned today will probably not be able to help her I think that there are a whole lot of families who are going to greatly benefit in the future from the things that we are now beginning to see. For my mother it is too late and we are only hoping now for the most peaceful end if life as possible but this could bring real hope and change for many families.

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