Feeling anxious? Who isn’t this time of year? Be careful, though — the stress might make you more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia.
A new study finds that people who experience significant levels of stress on a regular basis are 50% more likely to develop dementia later in life. That’s much higher than anyone previously suspected.
The culprit appears to be cortisol, a stress hormone that shows up in higher levels among people who are stressed. Cortisol, particularly at chronically high levels, can injure key parts of the brain, including the frontal cortex (responsible for high-level thinking) and the hippocampus (responsible for stored memories).
Among other things, the study followed twins and found that the twin with higher stress levels was substantially more likely to become a dementia patient.
The findings, reported in The Daily Mail, are the latest in a wave of new research about the potential causes of dementia. That’s a subject we knew very little about until now. Research is still underway to tie various findings together, all in the hopes of making some progress toward prevention or even a cure.
But while other studies, like those linking sugar or a lack of activity to heightened dementia risks, largely point toward behaviors that we might easily change, this latest discovery may not inspire as much optimism. After all, stress isn’t easy to avoid. And the knowledge that our stress could kill us can become a source of stress all its own.
Still, new knowledge is better than no knowledge. It’s encouraging to see science evolving so quickly on the dementia front. For now, though, one thing remains clear: we are all at risk for this devastating, debilitating disease. It remains impossible to accurately predict which of us will fall victim to it, and the overall rate of diagnosis has exploded worldwide in recent years.
Planning for the possibility of dementia (and other debilitating conditions necessitating long-term care) is a big part of what our Canton advance planning attorneys do every day.
Experts currently predict that the majority of American adults will require some form of long-term care after the age of 65, but advance planning is the only way that most of us will be able to afford it. That’s why proactive action is so important. Our office can help. Please contact us today.