Anxiety Could Lead to Alzheimer’s Disorder, Research Says

Spontaneous panic attacks, persistent stress, a rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating, and unrealistic worries are only some of the things that a person with anxiety disorder suffers through nearly every day. In 2016, anxiety disorders influenced 275 million people worldwide, and the numbers are only rising.

And if anxiety itself weren’t enough, new research indicates that older adults with anxiety are more likely to grow Alzheimer’s.

Beta-Amyloids and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a dementia variant that is specified by behavioral changes and progressively severe memory and thinking issues. Alzheimer’s is one of the more serious neurodegenerative conditions influencing the aging population, specially due to the lack of targeted treatment and early diagnostic tools/tests.
However, high levels of the protein ‘beta-amyloid’, which organizes plaques that block nerve cell communication inside the brain, have been observed in people with Alzheimer’s. This has led to the conclusion that beta-amyloids are a vital contributing factor behind Alzheimer’s development.
Moreover, scientists have also observed that a majority of people with Alzheimer’s also display indications of chronic depression.

The Research

To determine the accurate link between anxiety, beta-amyloids, and Alzheimer’s, researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts observed 270 cognitively healthy adults between 62-90 over 5 years.
At the beginning of the study, participators underwent a baseline PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan for a detailed initial image of their brains. This was followed by annual follow-up valuation to check the progression of depression and anxiety symptoms using the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS).

The Results

Upon concluding the 5-year study, researchers observed higher beta-amyloid levels in participators who displayed a steady progression of anxiety symptoms, as compared to their initial baseline scans.
This establishes an indirect link amid anxiety and Alzheimer’s, i.e. increment in anxiety symptoms leads to a rise in beta-amyloid levels, which may then contribute towards Alzheimer’s development at a faster rate.
However, this does not definitely mean that everyone with an anxiety disorder will on to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Instead, it only increments the risk, which can be greatly reduced through self-care and/or proper medical assistance for anxiety management.
Detailed discoveries have been printed in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The Future

While further large-scale trials need to be conducted for conclusive evidence of anxiety’s direct relationship with Alzheimer’s, this study gives a solid basis for future research on anxiety screening as a viable test for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
This is specially important as even mild symptoms generally take over a decade to surface, by which time significant and irreversible neurodegenerative damage has already occurred. Moreover, specialized anxiety testing will not only assist with early detection and slowing down disease progression, but also help prevent the condition entirely.
While it may not be a definitive diagnosis on its own, when joined with multiple risk factor identification and measurement, anxiety screening possesses the potential for early diagnosis.
Increased Alzheimer’s risk aside, anxiety, like all other mental health conditions, should be managed properly and quickly to make sure that it does not grow to interfere with daily life quality.

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