What Are the Links between Anxiety & Dementia?

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Dementia affects a significant proportion of the elderly population, and there’s no cure. Some researchers have been focusing on figuring out what causes dementia in hopes of being able to prevent the condition. Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heavy alcohol use, obesity, smoking, uncontrolled high blood pressure, use of hormone replacement therapy, and elevated homocysteine and LDL cholesterol are all modifiable factors that increase the risk of developing dementia. However, the primary focus has been on the connection between chronic anxiety and dementia.

Depression and Anxiety

Some studies have linked the presence of depression to an elevated risk of dementia, particularly in men. However, it’s possible that rather than being a causative factor, depression in older men is a symptom of early-stage dementia. Depression and anxiety disorders often coexist, and therefore researchers decided to see if anxiety might be linked to a higher risk of dementia. In a study of identical and fraternal twins conducted in Sweden, individuals affected by severe anxiety were found to have a 48 percent higher likelihood of developing dementia.

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Severe Anxiety

The researchers emphasize that the level of anxiety linked to dementia isn’t a normal or healthy level of anxiety. These people had abnormally high levels of anxiety throughout life, a level that led one of the researchers to describe them as “frantic and frazzled.”

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Stress

The researchers speculated that prolonged exposure to stress hormones due to the high level of anxiety in these people was a contributing to the development of dementia as they get older. Chronic exposure to stress hormones is known to cause damage to the parts of the brain involved in memory and higher-level thinking, and the findings of this study suggest reducing anxiety and stress may lower the chances of developing dementia. Anti-anxiety medication, meditation, exercise, and yoga are a few ways to maintain a healthy brain throughout life.

Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Assisting Hands Home Care is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Reston families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. Call us today to speak with one of our knowledgeable Care Managers.