Midlife Stress Connected to Heightened Risk of Catching Alzheimer’s: Study


A recent study suggests that experiencing stressful life events in middle age may heighten the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) conducted assessments on 1,290 volunteers who were initially cognitively unimpaired but had a direct family history of Alzheimer’s.

During interviews with doctors, participants disclosed the number of stressful life events they had encountered, such as the loss of a loved one or periods of unemployment. Subsequently, lumbar punctures and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were conducted to evaluate various biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The study revealed a correlation between the accumulation of stressful events during middle age and elevated levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brain, a crucial indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. Eleni Palpatzis, ISGlobal researcher and lead author of the study, emphasized that midlife represents a critical period when Alzheimer’s disease pathologies begin to manifest, suggesting that psychological stress during this time may have lasting implications for brain health.

Furthermore, the researchers found that experiencing higher levels of stressful events during childhood was linked to an increased risk of developing neuroinflammation later in life.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, approximately 64,000 people in Ireland are affected by dementia, a figure projected to escalate to 141,000 by 2050. Previous studies have indicated that chronic stress and depression may expedite the onset of the disease.

Eider Arenaza-Urquijo, ISGlobal researcher and senior author of the study, highlighted that the mechanisms by which life stressors impact brain health may differ between men and women, with amyloid protein accumulation observed in men and brain atrophy in women. While the study provides initial insights into the role of stress in Alzheimer’s disease development, further research is warranted to validate and replicate these findings.

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