Argentina researchers find stress can activate the degenerative process in the brain
In 2013, an estimated 5 million Americans aged 65 years or older have Alzheimer's disease and this is estimated to triple to as high as 13.8 million unless more effective ways to prevent and treat the disease are identified and implemented. Alzheimer's disease ranks as the 6th leading cause of death among adults aged 18 years or older, and is the 5th leading cause of death for adults aged 65 years or older, according to the CDC.
Dr. Edgardo Reich, Neurology Hospital Julio Mendez, Universidad de Buenos Aires Buenos Aires Argentina and colleagues found that stress caused by events such as violence, death in the family, accidents and financial distress just may trigger the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in some patients.
Researchers examined 118 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), average age 73 years and 2.4 years past between the diagnosis and onset of AD and another 81 healthy patients took part in the study as the control group. Age, gender and educational level were similar between both groups. Both groups or family members or caregivers were asked whether they had encountered particular stresses and strains in the three years prior to the diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
The study revealed almost three out of four Alzheimer’s patients (72%) had coped with severe emotional stress, grief and sorrow during the preceding 2.1 years before the onset of symptoms which was three times more than the control group at 26%.
Most of the mental stress had involved; death of spouse or partner (24 cases), death of a child (15 cases) and experienced violent traumas such as physical assault or robbery (21 cases) and car accidents (11 cases). The stress factors leading to illness were financial problems, pension shock, migration-related adaptive changes, bereavement or a diagnosis of a family member's severe sickness.
According to Dr. Reich, “stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. Though I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system.” “It is an observational finding and does not imply direct causality. Further studies are needed to examine these mechanisms in detail.”
This study was presented at the XXI World Congress of Neurology in Vienna.
Last year Dr. Reich had presented a study at the 22nd Meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Prague. That study set out to determine If the onset of Alzheimer’s disease was linked to a stressful life event.
The team of researchers compared 107 patients who had been diagnosed as possibly having Alzheimer's disease in a mild to moderate stage with an average age of 72 years to a control group of healthy adults. The team had asked participants, family members or caregivers if the patients had experienced particular stresses and strains in the three years before they were diagnosed.
The study revealed three out of four patients (73%) had to cope with severe emotional stress three times more than the control group at 24%.
These experiences had included death of a spouse or partner, death of a child, violent experiences such as robbery or physical assault and 10 participants had vehicle accidents that ended up with emotional wounds but not serious physical injuries. Other causes had included financial problems, family member with a severe illness or migration-related adaptive changes.
In that study Dr. Reich had commented "Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. Though I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system."
September is World Alzheimer’s month.