Today’s Reading List: Can anxiety accelerate slide into Alzheimer’s?

Today at Ontario’s Doctors, we examine new research from Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, supported by the United States National Institutes of Health that suggests anxiety in older patients may indicate an acceleration or slide into Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study used data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which documented changes in cognition, brain structure and mental health in 376 adults, ages 55 to 91, with mild cognitive impairment – the kind of memory problems that make people forget what they are about to say or why they went into a particular room:

At points over a three-year period, patients reported whether they felt anxious when separated from a spouse or caregiver, or experienced anxiety symptoms such as shortness of breath, nervousness, shakiness and trembling.

In patients with mild, moderate or severe anxiety, Alzheimer’s risk increased by 33 per cent, 78 per cent and 135 per cent, respectively, the researchers found.

In patients whose condition deteriorated into Alzheimer’s disease, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detected structural changes, including atrophy, in brain regions involved in creating memories as well as processing emotions.

Dr. Linda Mah, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto and principal investigator on the study, said it was:

unlikely patients’ anxiety was simply an emotional response to their cognitive decline. Rather, she theorized that anxiety could be a clinical biomarker of Alzheimer’s – “a reflection of worsening disease,”

For people in their 30s and 40s, the study should serve as a “wake-up call,” she added. And for older patients, mindfulness-based stress reduction is being studied as a potential intervention.

To read more please visit the Globe and Mail article.

Posted on November 14, 2014 in Health in the News, Reading List

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