Certain stressful situations in life cause massive brain aging
Stress is generally bad for human health. Researchers have now found that stressful events in life can cause the brain to age. For example, factors such as the death of a child cause the relatives' brains to age by at least four years.
The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine researchers found that stress can lead to massive aging of the human brain. The experts published the results of their study at the Alzheimer Association International Conference in London.
Researchers examine 1,300 subjects for their study
For their work, the doctors examined the performance of 1,300 subjects in various memory and thinking tests. The participants were all between 50 and 60 years old. The tests were intended to measure the health of the subjects' brains. The study did not take into account the risk of dementia and there are also many different factors that could play a major role, the scientists suspect.
Inflammation could affect the development of dementia
Although research has not shown a direct link between stress and an increased risk of dementia, certain effects on brain function are known that could lead to dementia in the long term, the experts explain. The theory goes that stress leads to inflammation, which can increase the likelihood of developing dementia.
What often causes stress?
Stressful experiences in all groups of the subjects included educational difficulties, financial insecurity, serious health problems and psychological trauma, the doctors explain. According to the researchers, African Americans have an increased risk of suffering from the effects of stress in their lives. Those affected showed poor memory test results and tended to live in a poor neighborhood, the scientists say.
Stress in early life affects the risk of dementia
The results of other studies presented at the conference showed that early life stress and home are also factors in determining whether an individual is at increased risk of developing dementia.
Disadvantaged people need better support
The study of the role of stress was extremely complex, the scientists explain. It is very difficult for an individual to get rid of conditions such as anxiety and depression, and these factors also seem to affect the risk of dementia. However, the results also show that more needs to be done to better support people from disadvantaged communities, the researchers emphasize. These people are more likely to experience stressful events in life, the doctors add.
The risk of dementia increases with age
In the UK alone there are currently around 850,000 people with dementia. This risk primarily affects people over the age of 65. At this age, the likelihood of developing the disease increases significantly, the experts explain. However, only 42,000 people with dementia in the UK are younger than 65.
The brain is incredibly complex and difficult to understand, and there is evidence that events and experiences throughout life can affect the brain decades later, the authors conclude. (as)