When a person reaches the middle age, he or she has most likely experienced a situation that is stressful. From raising children to budgeting finances, a middle-aged person has an eventful day-to-day life. Other experiences that could lead to stress include divorce, caring for elder parents, widowhood and more. A new study featured in the journal BMJ Open reveals that there may be a link between stress in middle-age and the rise of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, according to NPR.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia and is characterized by memory loss and the loss of other intellectual processes, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Exact causes are unknown, but risk factors include aging, family history, genetics, repeated head trauma, heart health and now it is associated with the presence of stress. Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at Gothenberg University in Sweden say that “women who reported stress in midlife … were more likely to have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in old age,” NPR reports.
In the study, the researchers collected data from 800 Swedish women ages 38 to 54 and kept tabs on their health for 37 years beginning in 1968. About 425 of the women died and 153 developed dementia. The information the researchers collected included “a range of psychosocial stresses, including divorce, widowhood and serious problems with children such as illness or death, … loss of work, mental illness or alcohol abuse in a spouse or close relative and illness or social problems related to a husband,” according to NPR.
According to a press release, the women who reported stress had a 21 percent increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and a 15 percent increase in developing any form of dementia. These findings held true even taking other risk factors into consideration. Additionally, the researchers found that it took 29 years on average for dementia to develop.
The researchers say further research is needed to improve upon their findings. However, the researchers also claim that other studies reveal links between stress and brain damage and inflammation. Additionally, research shows that stress in an individual may linger years after a traumatic incident.