Suggested link between dementia and mid life stress

StressResearch carried out in Sweden suggests women who suffer high levels of stress in mid life are at a greater risk of developing dementia later on.

The study of 800 women was carried out over four decades, with the participants undergoing regular tests and examinations. At the start of the study, a quarter of the women reported having experienced at least one stressful event such as widowhood or unemployment. A similar proportion had experienced at least two stressful events, and one in five women had experienced at least three. During the follow-up research, 425 of the participants had died, and 153 had developed dementia.

The authors of the study believe stress hormones may be to blame. The hormones cause a number of changes in the body, such as blood pressure and blood sugar control, and they can remain at high levels for years following a traumatic event. However the researchers explained that they also need to establish whether there is a similar link between stress and dementia in men.

Dr Simon Ridley of Alzheimer’s Research UK said it was hard to know whether stress contributed directly to the development of dementia, whether it was purely an indicator of another underlying risk factor in this population of women, or whether the link was due to an entirely different factor.

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