According to the statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, upwards of five million Americans are struggling with dementia at any given time. This is a number that is expected to grow in the coming years. Because the number only keeps getting larger, scientists are trying to identify possible risk factors that might be contributing to the development of dementia. One of the more recent studies, a study conducted by the University of Southern California, found that there might be a link between anxiety and dementia.
The Link Between The Two
Even though a possible link between depression and dementia has been examined before, memory loss and anxiety has yet to be closely considered. According to the lead author of the study, one of the reasons that they decided to spend so much time looking at anxiety was because it is often a long-term part of someone’s personality rather than a temporary disorder.
The study observed 28 years of data from the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden and the Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging. The results found that those subjects who had higher levels of anxiety were almost 50 percent more likely to develop dementia later in life.
A Possible Explanation
One of the reasons that this link might exist is because of the higher levels of cortisol found in those who have more stress. Anxious people have far more stress hormones present in their bodies at all times. If this is a constant issue (meaning that there are consistently higher levels of cortisol present), it can lead to damage in the brain.
The primary areas of the brain that take damage from the constant presence of cortisol include the frontal cortex and the hippocampus. Those are the areas of the brain that are responsible for memory storage and high-level thinking.
What This Means For The Future
Even though it is not positive to know that someone is at a higher risk of developing problems with dementia, it does mean that people who struggle with anxiety might be able to lower their risk of developing dementia by seeking out treatment to deal with their anxiety early on. This is believed to be able to play an important role in the amount of adults who struggle with dementia later in life.