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Alzheimer's disease linked to stress in new study

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I took particular notice of this story b/c my grandmother died of Alzheimer's disease in her late 70's. I also believe that she had autonomic dysfunction as she had symptoms very similar to mine, and also had severe problems post-partum like I did. Since we can have elevated levels of stress hormones, I thought this story was somewhat relevant, so thought I'd share.

Another reason to eat your fruit and veggies--there have been a number of studies also showing a REDUCED risk of Alzheimer's among people who consumed the recommended 5+ a day servings of fruit and vegetables.


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who have a tendency to worry or feel very stressed out may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life, new research reports.

The relationship between stress and Alzheimer's disease also appears to be much stronger in whites than in African-Americans, the authors note in the journal Neurology.

The nature of the connection between a tendency to worry and the memory-robbing disease is still unclear, study author Dr. Robert S. Wilson of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago told Reuters Health.

However, he said that he suspects that chronic elevations of stress hormones may damage regions of the brain that regulate both behavior under stress and memory.

Wilson emphasized that this study only connects stress and Alzheimer's, and does not prove that one causes the other. The report "does not establish that distress causes dementia," Wilson noted.

But while it's too soon to recommend that people reduce their stress to help avoid Alzheimer's disease, there are many other healthy reasons to relax, he added.

"The tendency to experience psychological distress is a trait that we all have to greater or lesser degrees," Wilson noted. "Family or friends concerned about a loved one who is chronically unhappy should encourage the person to see a qualified mental health professional."

As part of the study, Wilson and his colleagues asked 1,064 white and black people at least 65 years old about their tendency toward worry and stress, then examined them 3 to 6 years later to determine if they had developed Alzheimer's disease.

They found that people who appeared prone to feeling distressed were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease within 3 to 6 years. The relationship between stress and Alzheimer's disease was much stronger in white participants, Wilson and his team report.

Wilson added that this is the first study to examine the link between stress and Alzheimer's disease in African-Americans.

"At this point we do not have an explanation for the racial difference, but we think the finding underscores the importance of including racial and ethnic minorities in this kind of research," he noted.

SOURCE: Neurology, January 25, 2005.

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Hi Katherine,

I'm very sorry that your grandmother died because of Alzheimer's. Since you and she share (some of) the same things, doesn't that scare you?

I'm very interested in this, because of the cognitive problems I have. I've been tested and (luckily) have no Alzheimers's but there are some specific things wrong with my shorttime memory but (ofcourse) my neuro psychologist doesn't know whether this could be POTS related (maybe that's because he had never heard of POTS before? :P ). It's difficult to get answers if doctors don't know about POTS, it sometimes makes me feel very frustrated! Thanks for sharing this, wishing you the best,


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Yes it does scare me! I don't like to focus on sad (and scary) things, especially when forum members have enough of their own problems to contend with. However, this is her story. My grandmother's disease was particularly slow progressing and it was so horrible to see her slowly fade. Also she needed a lot of care for years, while she was alive physically, but virtually gone otherwise. (In a way, that is my biggest fear.) My grandmother had cognitive issues throughout adulthood, according to my mom. Much more significant than what I have had, so far. She always had significant trouble focusing, with memory and with organization. My mother learned at an early age how to do housework b/c my grandmother didn't do much of it, for example. Her physical symptoms were otherwise very similar to mine--she had generally low energy (although always loved swimming and walking--she was not inactive), she fainted (I don't, as an adult) and felt faint a lot, she had preeclampsia with late pregnancy and nearly died during childbirth due to a huge drop in blood pressure--according to her midwife. Of course, the technology didn't exist then that does now to prevent bad things from happening during childbirth, and part of the problem was that she lost a lot of blood, apparently. Anyway, she was also very sick/bedridden during post-partum but was never diagnosed with anything (this was in the early 1930's).

Anyway, I am NOT trying to scare anyone. At the same time, I do wonder about this finding of a link of stress hormones to Alzheimer's. If we are at special risk, it certainly makes sense to try to lower our risk in the other ways that we can (e.g. diet).

Thanks for your interest and concern Corina.


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That is scary! My grandmother too died from Alzheimer's and my parents think one of my grandfathers had the disease as well although he died in an accident. My grandmother was a really sharp lady and showed no signs of early cognitive problems but my mother has had some cognitive problems for a long time. When I was younger I used to call her a ditz (mean I know but I was young). No one else in my family shows signs of dysautonomia but my son had a kiari malformation repaired last year.

I know the literature has been saying to reduce stress for years now and more &more problems are being attributed to stress but it's sometimes easier said than done to reduce stress, especially when you feel you have no control over things. Exercise is suppose to be good for stress but wow is that tough to do now. I guess what will happen will and we just have to do what we can to make our lives the best they can be in the present and deal with what happens when it does.

Denise :P

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Denise--I am sorry that you also lost your grandmother to Alzheimer's.

Good point Denise. It's not helpful to dwell on what we can't change, better to just try our best to live as well as we can. It is helpful though to be aware of risk factors, so that we can control the areas of our lives that are possible to control, e.g., diet and exercise.


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