Medical researchers have begun a study to find out if stress can trigger dementia. The investigation, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, will monitor 140 people with mild cognitive impairment or “pre-dementia” and look at how stress affects their condition. The researchers will take blood and saliva samples at six-monthly intervals over the 18 months of the study to measure biological markers of stress. The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition.
Past studies suggest mid-life stress may increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A Swedish study that followed nearly 1,500 women for a period of 35 years found the risk of dementia was about 65% higher in women who reported repeated periods of stress in middle age than in those who did not. Scottish scientists, who have done studies in animals, believe the link may be down to hormones the body releases in response to stress which interfere with brain function.
Understanding the risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s could provide one piece of the puzzle we need to take us closer to a treatment.