At times, stress can push the elderly people into the gloomy world of depression, whereas for others, it may mean a gradual decline of cognitive abilities. In both the situations, the sufferers are two times more susceptible to suffer from amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Decreased cognitive function can be a precursor to a full-blown Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the elderly people who remain constantly worried, says a recent study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Health System who wanted to understand if the influence of stress on aMCI was independent of its possible causes.
The study, titled “Influence of Perceived Stress on Incident Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: Results From the Einstein Aging Study,” was published in the journal Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders in December 2015.
Stress and higher risk of intellectual disability
The research was conducted on 507 adults, aged 70 or above, enrolled in the Einstein Aging Study (EAS), a community-based cohort of adults in the Bronx County, New York. During the course of the study, the researchers took into consideration various associated factors of the 71 respondents diagnosed with aMCI, such as age, race, gender, extent of education, levels of depressive disorders and genetic risks linked to the onset of AD.
The tests conducted on the participants revealed that patients with high levels of stress had higher probability of being afflicted with AD. Also, the study that harped on greater levels of stress associated with higher likelihood of cognitive impairment found that the stressed elderly were at a 2.5 percent higher risk of suffering from aMCI.
Stressing on the observations, Dr. Richard Lipton from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and lead author of the study, said, “Our study provides strong evidence that perceived stress increases the likelihood that an older person will develop aMCI. Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, making it a potential target for treatment.”
Co-author of the study Mindy Katz said, “Perceived stress reflects the daily hassles we all experience, as well as the way we appraise and cope with these events. Perceived stress can be altered by mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive-behavioral therapies and stress-reducing drugs. These interventions may postpone or even prevent an individual’s cognitive decline.”
The importance of the study lies in the fact that the observations made during the study are an extension of the earlier findings titled, “Global perceived stress predicts cognitive change among older adults,” published in the journal Psychology and Aging in September 2015.
Figures that hurt
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.3 million Americans suffered from AD in 2015. Ranked as the only cause of death among the top 10 disorders in America that cannot be treated or cured, it is estimated that one in three Americans die of Alzheimer’s in any given year.
Reflecting on the growing number of deaths attributed to this disease in the U.S., Matthew Baumgart, senior director of public policy at the Alzheimer’s Association, said, “Alzheimer’s is having a rapidly growing impact on American society.”
Alzheimer’s is not completely curable, but new evidence-based and innovative treatment methods, coupled with cutting-edge technologies, can help increase the longevity of the people suffering from this disorder.
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