Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline, which is a potential treatment target.
People suffering from stress are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and thus suffering a heart attack or stroke. But the harmful effects of stress do not end there: it is also a source of many physical and mental disorders, sleep disorders, diabetes, and muscle aches, etc. And all this is added, as shown in a study led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York (USA), that stress doubles the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.
More specifically, the results show that stress increases the risk of amnestic mild cognitive impairment, type of cognitive impairment in which the predominant symptom is memory loss. And as with all types of cognitive impairment, its appearance is a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Explains Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the research published in the journal “Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders”, “our study provides consistent evidence that stress increases the risk of older people develop DLCA. Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, so it is a potential target for the treatment. “
The more stress, the less memory
The researchers analyzed data from 507 people over 70 years in the study of aging that the Faculty has been conducting since 1993. A study in which participants, in addition to numerous physical, neurological and psychosocial tests, are subject to assessment – through the stress of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), where a higher score means more stress.
At the time of initiation of the investigation, the 507 participants, who underwent an annual assessment of stress and cognitive function for an average period of 3.6 years, were free of DLCA or dementia. But during it, 71 developed DLCA.
The analysis of the results showed that the risk of DLCA was greater the higher the levels of stress. Specifically, for every 5 more points in the PSS – the scale runs from 0 to 54 points. DLCA risk increases to 30%.
Higher risk in women
Once found that the association between stress and cognitive impairment is independent of other factors, the results also showed that the risk of DLCA is higher in women and in people with a low educational level or major depression.
Mindy Katz, co-author of the study, concludes “it reflects perceived stress everyday problems that everyone experiences and how we evaluate and face it. And this perceived stress can be treated in various ways, such as using a cognitive-behavioral therapy or administration of drugs. An important aspect since these interventions can delay and even prevent the cognitive impairment”.