Stressful life events: one cause of Alzheimer’s disease in seniors.
Currently, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to rise to over 16 million by the year 2050. In the United States ,1 in 3 elderly adults experiences Alzheimer’s or dementia during their lifetime. Dementia is a more advanced form of cognitive impairment and is characterized by a group of symptoms involving loss of memory, and degradation of thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily activities. There are many etiological factors that can cause Alzheimer’s, but the exact cause has not been identified. Genetic factors, exposure to toxins, environmental triggers and certain diseases have been identified as risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
A recently identified risk factor is chronic stress.
Research suggests that 60% of people experiencing mild cognitive impairment will develop Alzheimer’s, and the impact of chronic stress on the development of Alzheimer’s is now considered to be highly significant. Although there are only a few studies performed on the effect of stress and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, some animal research study models have proven that increased stress is one of the courses in deterioration of memory and learning abilities ("TRAUMA.ORG : Neurotrauma: Cerebral Perfusion Pressure", 2017).
There have been many hypotheses and assertions regarding how stress can lead to increased Alzheimer’s risk.
Stress affects the immune system and triggers many immune responses. Weak immune systems are associated with many forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s risk. Cortisol, a key stress hormone, has been linked to memory problems and memory loss. Studies have found that stressful life events like a breakup from close relationships, divorce, the death of a close family member, losing an important job, being sent away from home, loss of income and loss of property can trigger the underlying mechanisms in the brain to initiate the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The death of a loved one or being sent away from home will also cause grief and depression in the mind.
This will lead to imbalances of neurotransmitters of the person’s griefs or experience stress for a long period of time. A study funded by Alzheimer’s Society is examining whether long-term stress may play a role in whether someone progresses from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s disease.
With all the latest evidence coming to life from advanced and nuanced research, it is well demonstrated that stress is one of the underlying causes of memory disorders.
There can be many stressful events in life but the events mentioned above can leave you devastated and in chronic stress for long durations. The long periods of stress can keep your neural imbalances unstable for long periods of time affecting hypothalamus and memory areas of the brain. This can lead to mild memory impairment and even Alzheimer’s later on in life.
If you have a family member who is experiencing memory loss and you’re exploring long term care options like memory care and assisted living, please contact us for more information about our retirement community in Los Angeles or to schedule a tour.
Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet. (2017). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved 7 September 2017, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet
Society, A. (2017). Chronic stress as a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease - Alzheimer's Society. Alzheimer's Society. Retrieved 22 September 2017, from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20053/research_projects/650/chronic_stress_as_a_risk_factor_for_the_de
Society, A. (2017). Chronic stress as a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease - Alzheimer's Society. Alzheimer's Society. Retrieved 22 September 2017, from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20053/research_projects/650/chronic_stress_as_a_risk_factor_for_the_development_of_alzheimers_disease?_ga=2.39085665.394524894.1506380338-1066528827.1506380338