Study seeks to understand relationship between Chronic Stress and Alzheimer’s disease

July 12, 2012

Currently 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. – and more than 800,000 people in the U.K. battle some form of dementia. Researchers globally are working tirelessly to find an effective way to prevent and treat the disease, especially with the U.S. number projected to swell to as many as 16 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in 2050.

CBS News reported on a new study out of the U.K. that is taking a closer look at the link between chronic stress and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The report states that researchers are seeking to understand how stressful events may potentially become a risk factor for the disease. The study will follow 140 participants who have already experienced mild cognitive impairment and a control group of 70 without any cognitive impairment problems.

The study will track participants’ level of stress, number of stressful life events, and progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia across an 18-month period. Additionally, blood and saliva samples will be collected every six months to track the levels of cortisol, a hormone that is released in the body in response to stress.

The Alzheimer’s Society notes that many other health problems – including chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—have been linked to chronic stress, though research on the connection between chronic stress and cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease has been very minimal.

This study represents both a strong reminder of the critical link between stress and the development of chronic diseases as well as an important step toward developing treatments that will help millions worldwide in their battle against Alzheimer’s.