Stress as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease?

One of the most feared signs of ageing has to be memory loss.  Forgetting the names, faces and memories of those you love and what you enjoy about your life.  In the UK alone there are 800,000 people living with dementia and because we have an ageing population, this number is set to rise rapidly over the next few years.

The term ‘Mild Cognitive Impairment’ covers the early signs of memory loss and dementia; 60% of people diagnosed with MCI will go on to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia.

Currently, there are many theories as to how and why Alzheimer’s develops.  One of these theories is the link between stress and dementia and scientists at the University of Southampton are carrying out a 3 year research project investigating the connections between stress and mental decline.

Two groups of participants will be followed, one group with MCI and the other without.  Stressful life events will be tracked, along with measurements of  immune function and stress hormones to see how the stress response affects the progression of MCI to dementia.

Stress, whether we cope well with it or not, is a major part of our lives and increases the effects of risk factors for many chronic diseases including hypertension, heart disease and cancer.  The results of this study will prove hugely interesting and may provide more clues as to how we can reduce the negative effects of stress and ageing on our minds.