Stressful life events can age brain

Joan Terry
July 17, 2017

A separate study found that enduring stressful events such as unemployment, divorce, or losing a child added around a year and a half to brain aging in white participants.

Another Wisconsin study showed that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with later decline in cognitive function and even the biomarkers linked to Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

Efforts to cushion the blow of bereavement, abuse or other traumatic events could help to protect the brain, experts speculated.

In one study, findings suggest that stress can take years off an individual's life in terms of brain function.

A series of studies presented at the 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC 2017) has highlighted racial inequities in the risk of dementia. Researchers say the next key challenge is to roll the programme to the 28,000 care homes in the United Kingdom to benefit the lives of the 300,000 people with dementia living in these facilities. "As we improve our understanding of risk factors for dementia, it is increasingly important to establish the role that stress and stressful life events play", said Alzheimer's Society director of research Doug Brown. "Our findings suggest that differences in early life conditions may contribute to racial inequalities in dementia rate, and they point to growing evidence that early life conditions contribute to dementia risk in late life".

Researchers from Wisconsin University in the USA also found that African American experienced 60 per cent more stressful events than white people during their lifetimes.

It mainly affects people over the age of 65 and, while the likelihood of developing dementia rises sharply with age, about 42,000 of those suffering from the condition are younger than that.

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And Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'There's good United Kingdom data that supports the fact that diagnosis rates are really driven by socio-economic factors'.

"No one's looking at the same kind of things, but the research all dovetails really well", said Megan Zuelsdorff, an epidemiologist with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

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The study included more than 800 dementia patients living in 69 nursing homes in the U.K. Two staff members at each home were trained to engage in simple social activities with the patients.

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