Worrying Puts You At A Higher Risk For Dementia

January 18, 2016

If you are constantly worried, stressed or anxious, you may be at a higher risk for dementia. Anxious people are one and a half times more likely to develop dementia than those who are not. If you suffer from high anxiety at some point in your life, you are 48% more likely to suffer from cognitive decline. Researchers in Sweden studied twins, both identical and fraternal, over 28 years with questions and dementia screening. Subjects self-reported their levels of anxiety which may or may not have met the threshold for anxiety disorder. The twin that developed dementia had a higher level of anxiety compared to the twin that did not develop dementia.


Anxiety in older adults has been understudied compared to depression and neuroticism. Much research has been done linking depression with dementia, but this is the first study linking anxiety. Depression is often more prevalent in adulthood, but is usually episodic, whereas anxiety can be a chronic life-long problem and written off as part of a person’s personality. Those twins developing dementia had a higher level of anxiety than the twin that did not.  Those with severe anxiety were often found to be frazzled, fidgety and frantic. Those with high anxiety have higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol has been found to damage parts of the brain such as the hippocampus. This part of the brain stores memory and is responsible for high level of thinking. Fraternal twins seemed to have a stronger relationship for an anxiety-dementia relationship than identical twins. Researchers think this may be because of genetic factors shared by anxiety and dementia that account for the higher dementia risk.


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