Researchers 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’suncovered 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.
- 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.
- 2015 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. (2015, September 17). Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts/
- Learn to manage stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm
- 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
- 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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