Anxiety linked to faster Alzheimer’s disease development

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In a new study from the Medical University of South Carolina, researchers found that anxiety is linked to an increased rate of progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.

Many people with Alzheimer’s disease first suffer from mild cognitive impairment, a decline in cognitive abilities like memory and thinking skills that is more rapid than normally associated with aging.

Anxiety has been frequently observed in patients with mild cognitive impairment, although its role in disease progression is not well understood.

In the study, the team examined 39 patients, average age of 72 years, from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative 2 cohort.

Each person had a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment; 72 progressed to Alzheimer’s disease while 267 remained stable.

The researchers obtained brain MRIs to determine the baseline volumes of the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, two areas important to forming memories.

They also tested for the presence of the ApoE4 allele, the most prevalent genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Anxiety was measured with established clinical surveys.

The team found patients who progressed to Alzheimer’s disease had much lower volumes in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex and greater frequency of the ApoE4 allele.

Most notably though, they found that anxiety was independently associated with cognitive decline.

Mild cognitive impairment patients with anxiety symptoms developed Alzheimer’s disease faster than individuals without anxiety, independently of whether they had a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease or brain volume loss.

Scientists don’t know yet if the anxiety is a symptom — in other words, their memory is getting worse and they become anxious — or if anxiety contributes to cognitive decline.

The team says if doctors are able in the future to find that anxiety is actually causing progression, then they should more aggressively screen for anxiety disorders in the elderly.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about people with these 2 mental problems may develop Alzheimer’s early and findings of a new method for an effective prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease prevention, please see recent studies about this diet may prevent or even reverse Alzheimer’s disease and results showing that this blood pressure problem may increase Alzheimer’s disease risk.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. One author of the study is Maria Vittoria Spampinato, M.D.

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