antThe memory-wracking disease of Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the ageing process.
Alzheimer’s sets in at old age, when its appearance and course are not only dependent on biological determinants; environmental factors such as stress may also play a role
In addition to the memory loss, severed human connections and personality changes faced by families dealing with Alzheimer’s, there are enormous — almost unthinkable — expenses associated with the disease. And not all those costs are borne by the health care system and Medicare or Medicaid.
Many of those who take care of Alzheimer’s patients do so from a distance. 2013 Facts & Figures found that nearly 15 percent of caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, live an hour or more away. And their out-of-pocket costs are nearly twice as high as those of local caregivers.
Hypertension, diabetes, advanced age or a mentally and physically inactive lifestyle are known to increase an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent form of dementia in the world. Now, researchers in Argentina say that stress may possibly trigger the disease.
In order to determine whether the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is associated with stressful life events, Dr. Reich and his team examined 107 patients who had been diagnosed as possibly having Alzheimer’s disease in a mild to moderate stage. The average age of study participants was 72 years old.
The study, conducted by Dr Edgardo Reich, was presented at the 22nd Meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Prague.
4.7 million people in Europe were suffering from Alzheimer’s in the year 2000 and this figure is expected to increase to 8 million by the year 2030 and to 12 million by the year 2050.
Dr Reich said:
“In fact, three out of four Alzheimer’s patients (73%) had to cope with severe emotional stress – three times as many as the control group in which only 24% experienced stress, grief and sorrow during the preceding three years.”
The researchers found:
21 patients experienced death of a spouse or partner
14 patients experienced the death of a child
20 had violent experiences, such as robbery or physical assault
10 had car accidents that likely resulted in emotional wounds although no serious physical injures
Dr Reich commented:
“Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. Though I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuro-endocrine and immune system.”