Day-to-Day Stresses in Middle-Aged Women Linked To Dementia

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iStock_000014320433MediumIf having to manage children, a job, and a marriage sounds like a handful, its because it is. Middle-age women are known to suffer from a large amount of stress, but a new study suggests that stress may cause problems later in life. Middle-age women with high levels of day-to-day stress have a somewhat higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

The study, published online in BMJ Open, isn’t saying having a job or kids is directly raising your risk of dementia, but there is evidence that chronic stress, often exacerbated by this issues, may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s risk.

The study doesn’t have an conclusive answer to why, but there are some theories. One possibility is that chronic stress can reduce the efficiency of people’s brain wiring via the effects on certain hormones. Those already vulnerable to Alzheimer’s related problems later in life would then be especially likely to be effected by this loss of efficiency.

According to Health 24, past studies have mostly focuses on the effects of stress brought on by severe traumas, not day-to-day stress. The new study focused on “common stressors” as lead researcher Lena Johansson, of the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University in Sweden, explained.

The team studied information from 800 Swedish women from almost forty years beginning in the late 30’s to early 50’s. Those studied underwent periodic psychiatric exams and surveys about everyday stressors, such as job strain, divorce, and family issues.

Over 37 years, 19% of the women developed dementia, which was most commonly diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers noted correlation between the number of life stressors reported four decades earlier and the risk of developing cognitive issues.

But don’t go quitting your stressful job or running away from your stresses. The researchers also noted another of other explanations for the link. Women with high blood pressure, diabetes, are overweight, or had low incomes have also been shown to have a heightened risk for Alzheimer’s. Dr. Marc Gordon, chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, said it is “biologically plausible” that chronic stress could contribute to dementia, but there are still many questions to be answered.

“This type of study can’t tell us if there’s an intervention that can affect people’s outcomes,” Gordon said. “We can’t make any recommendations based on this alone.”

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