Stressed and neurotic women at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease

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SHAFAQNA – Middle-aged women who have certain personality traits such as introversion and neuroticism, may be at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research. The study published in Neurology online followed 800 women for 38 years. Researchers at the University of Gothenberg looked at women, who had an average age of 46 at the study’s start, and gave them personality tests to measure their levels of neuroticism and extraversion and asked them to report feelings of stress across their lifetime.

The study found that those with higher levels of neuroticism were at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but the link between neuroticism and the condition depended on high levels of long term stress.

In the study, researcher Lena Johansson said: “Stress activates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and thus the levels of a variety of potent hormones, for example, glucocorticoid.

“According to the ‘glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis’, high and longstanding levels of cortisol lead to shrink and loss of neurons, especially in some vulnerable areas in the medial temporal lobe because of the high amount of cortisol receptors.”

Women are particularly vulnerable as “psychological stress and stress-related disorders have been recognized as a widespread and increasing public health problem, especially among young and middle-aged women,” according to the study.

Dr Clare Walton, research manager at Alzheimer’s Society said: “We all have moments when we feel stressed or worried, but stressed women reading this shouldn’t take this research to mean they’re necessarily at higher risk of dementia. This research doesn’t show that neuroticism in women alone could increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but what it does suggest is that personality traits like neuroticism are linked to the experience of long term stress.

“This study adds to the mounting evidence that long term stress contributes to the development of dementia but we need more research to untangle whether personality also plays a role. While we can’t control all the sources of everyday stress, we can develop coping strategies to deal with them and we’re funding research to help explore how this could help with reducing risk of dementia.”

Previous research has suggested that stress is a risk factor for dementia. Alzheimer’s Society is currently funding research at the University of Southampton to explore how personality, stress and different stress coping strategies can affect the likelihood of development of dementia.

Source : http://www.homecare.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1565379/stressed-neurotic-women-alzheimers

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