Connection Found Between Anxiety and Alzheimer’s

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment include changes in cognitive functioning, which include thinking and memory abilities. Such changes should be observable by the patient or others, but not advanced to the point of affecting a person’s everyday life, according to physicians at NYC Neurology. Roughly 10-20% of all people over the age of 65 have some form of a mild cognitive impairment.

A large percentage of people that have a mild cognitive impairment eventually develop Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a common phenomenon observed
 by NY Neurologist Gary Starkman. According to a new study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers
 are positing that anxiety may accelerate this process. Studies have also shown that depression is linked with Alzheimer’s, which makes sense considering anxiety and depression are also related. Prior to this current study, researchers have not investigated the connection between Alzheimer’s and anxiety. Roughly 376 people between the ages of 55 and 61 participated in the study over the course of three years. 

Each of these patients had amnestic MCI, which is described as the inability to remember significant information, like recent interactions, occurrences, and schedules. Doctors at New York Neurology have multifaceted ways of treating such illnesses. Scientists measured the patients’ depression and anxiety levels every six months and examined their brain structure and functioning also. Those who had high levels of anxiety showed a more rapid decrease in cognition, and the rate at which this occurred increased in relation to the level of anxiety. People with a low anxiety level reported a 33% higher risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, while those with a moderate level had a 78% higher risk, and patients with high anxiety had a 135% increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Patients who had demonstrated any level of anxiety throughout the course of the study showed levels of brain atrophy, which refers to shrinkage of the brain. This was especially prominent in the medial temporal lobes, which are critical for retaining memories, and often connected to Alzheimer’s. All patients involved in the study had reported low scores for depression, leading the researchers to believe the results were not due to depression. Scientists involved with the study suggest that those who have memory problems should be continuously screened for anxiety, as it may help predict who will develop Alzheimer’s.

Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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