Stress is something we all face in our day-to-day lives, but too much of it can cause a number of health problems. You may already be familiar with the role of stress in our heart health – high levels of stress can lead to high blood pressure. But is there a link between stress and the development of Alzheimer’s disease?
Let’s look at what the research suggests and what we can do to keep our stress levels down as we age.
What causes Alzheimer’s?
While there is no single cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers and health professionals have uncovered a number of risk factors that make a person more likely to develop these conditions. These include:
- Old age
- Family history of dementia
- Head injuries
How is stress related to Alzheimer’s?
In scientific research on the topic, stress has been found to be a potential contributing factor toward the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the extent of which has not yet been determined as there are so many contributing factors. Stress may be a risk factor because of its connection with other health problems, like depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, all of which have also been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Stress in itself has also been linked to memory problems. This is likely an evolutionary response. When we experience stress and enter the typical “fight or flight” mode, blood flow is directed towards parts of the body that are considered essential for this response. This means blood is diverted away from non-essential areas. So, if blood flow is restricted to the part of the brain that is responsible for forming short-term memories, then this could explain how memory loss is related to stress. If someone experiences chronic stress, then it can seriously change their brain chemistry and capabilities over time.
Another research study found that a hormone released in response to stress, corticotrophin releasing factor, actually boosts the production of protein fragments that have been consistently found in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins, amyloid beta, have been found to cause brain degeneration related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Keep your brain healthy by reducing stress
While there is still more research to be done on the link between stress and Alzheimer’s, there are many health benefits of reducing your stress levels. If possible, remove yourself from situations that you know cause you a lot of stress. Luckily, stress levels tend to drop after retirement because work is a common cause of stress.
We can’t always avoid stressful situations, so you also need to practice ways to manage your stress levels. Meditation and light exercise are known to be good ways to reduce stress levels. But it’s about finding what’s right for you. This could be taking a hot bath or reading an interesting book.
If you need help caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, then Bermuda Village’s assisted living and independent living communities can support you with all your care needs in Bermuda Run, NC.