Anxiety Associated With Faster Alzheimer’s Disease Onset, What To Do About It

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

IN BRIEF

Keeping your cool can do more than just improve the immediate situation. It may actually improve your chances of avoiding Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that impairs cognitive abilities such as memory, thinking skills, and behavior. Symptoms develop quicker than normally associated with aging. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically due to tissue loss and nerve cell damage, becoming so severe that daily tasks are extremely difficult to perform.

The number of deaths from the disease since 2000 has doubled, making it the fifth-leading cause of death for over 65-year-olds in the United States. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases, and by mid-century, Americans over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s may grow to just under 14 million compared to almost 6 million in 2020. (1)  

Main Causes Of Alzheimer’s Disease

There is very little known about what triggers Alzheimer’s, although several aspects are known to increase the risk of developing the disease. What scientists have previously known is that Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells.

Although it’s not known exactly what causes this process to begin, scientists believe it begins many years before symptoms appear. Other factors which may increase the onset of the condition are:

  • Age: Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect adults at around 40 years old, however, older adults age 65 or older are most likely to develop the condition. The risk doubles every five years after the age of 65. (2) 
  • Family history may be a factor that can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. (3)  
  • Down’s syndrome: People with Down’s syndrome have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s due to their genetic makeup which can cause amyloid plaques to build up in the brain. (4)  
  • Head injuries: It is thought that severe head injuries may cause the onset of Alzheimer’s. Symptoms can either develop quickly or increase risk later in life depending on the severity of the injury. (5)  
  • Cardiovascular disease: Although further research is required, studies have shown that lifestyle factors linked to cardiovascular disease may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These could include, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. (6) 

Anxiety And Alzheimer’s 

Anxiety has been frequently observed in patients with mild cognitive impairment and plays a major role in our health and wellbeing. It affects the body and mind in more ways than can be imagined. Stress and anxiety drive Alzheimer’s disease, which in turn disrupts stress circuits in the brain. This vicious cycle can quicken the onset of Alzheimer’s, and increase stress and anxiety. (7) 

Although anxiety’s role in disease progression is not well understood, new analysis and research have shown a connection between Alzheimer’s and areas of the brain related to stress.

One new study carried out on 339 patients has shown how anxiety is associated with faster Alzheimer’s disease onset. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina studied the group who were, on average, 72 years old. Each patient had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment; 72 went on to develop Alzheimer’s while the rest remained stable. 

MRIs were taken of the brain concentrating on baseline volumes of the hippocampus (also known as the temporal lobe) and the entorhinal cortex – areas of the brain associated with memory, navigation, and the perception of time. Tests were also carried out for the ApoE4 allele, known as the risk factor gene as it increases a person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s and lowers the age of onset.

Anxiety was measured and, as expected, patients who progressed to Alzheimer’s disease had notably lower volumes in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex and greater frequency of the ApoE4 allele. Most notably, researchers found that anxiety was independently related to cognitive decline. (8)  

Treatments And Reducing Risk

Once Alzheimer’s develops and onset becomes rapid, there is sadly very little treatment available. However, with emerging research, including studies at the Medical University of South Carolina, we’re seeing that preventative actions can be taken. Reducing anxiety and stress to decrease onset can be vital. 

Stress and anxiety can be caused by a multitude of events or issues. Some of those may be unavoidable, while others can be worked on and a level of risk management may take place to reduce or lessen the severity of these periods of angst. 

Those who suffer from acute anxiety or stress tend to know what the triggers are, but what can be done to lessen the effects or reduce the intensity these episodes reap upon sufferers?

  • Get, or ask for help in the early stages: Seeking advice from a medical professional, or even talking to a friend or relative may lessen any problems or issues that can lead to anxiety or stress.  
  • Learn to relax your body and mind: Feel safe and secure within oneself. If finding this is difficult, a change of lifestyle may be necessary. Try Yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation. However, If you simply want to feel relaxed or in a state of calm use Be Serene; a non-sedating relief supplement that works to reduce reactivity to stress, anxiety, and nervousness. The highly potent, natural ingredients work as adaptogens to create balance within the mind and body, whether physical, chemical, or biological. Used for over 2 millennia in traditional medicine, the ingredients are safe and gaining recognition in the scientific community.  
  • Avoid recreational drugs and reduce alcohol intake: Even though quitting drugs and alcohol can make you anxious, the effects of abusing these substances can exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, as well as a host of other ailments. (9) 
  • Stay active – exercise: The health benefits of exercise are well known. Being active can help take your mind off troublesome events and exercise can release feel-good endorphins which can reduce stress and anxiety. (10) 
  • Try to reduce your need for prescription drugs: While these may help in the short term, some prescription drugs taken for anxiety and depression are high dependency, addictive, and if over-prescribed may produce serious side-effects and withdrawal symptoms. (11)

    With natural treatments such as Be Serene, these often-dangerous side-effects can be avoided.

If you suffer or think you suffer from mild cognitive impairment always seek early professional advice. However, don’t be alarmed or press the stress-button just yet. New research and understanding of Alzheimer’s disease are improving rapidly and preventative measures can be taken to reduce this risk. Help is close by.

Sources 

  1. https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/alz.12068
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/causes/#:~:text=Alzheimer’s%20disease%20is%20thought%20to,form%20tangles%20within%20brain%20cells
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4645760/#:~:text=Alzheimer’s%20disease%20(AD)%20is%20one,AD%20has%20a%20genetic%20basis.
  4. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/down-syndrome
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-disease/faq-20057837
  6. https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/65/2/143 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991350/ 
  8. https://press.rsna.org/timssnet/media/pressreleases/PDF/pressreleasePDF.cfm?ID=2231
  9. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-anxiety#consequences 
  10. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-help-treat-anxiety-2019102418096#:~:text=How%20does%20exercise%20help%20ease,body’s%20contribution%20to%20feeling%20anxious
  11. https://www.addictioncenter.com/benzodiazepines/#:~:text=They%20are%20used%20to%20treat,prescribed%20for%20short%2Dterm%20use

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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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