The study is based on data from the “Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging” by the Karolinska Institute of Sweden, one of the largest databases in the world. The researchers included 1,082 participants which had to complete different tests every three years for 28 years.
People who experienced high anxiety any time in their lives had a 48% higher risk of developing dementia compared with those who had not.
The subjects with anxiety who later developed dementia can be described as people operating at a “high level of anxiety”. “They are frantic, frazzled and fidgety people.” said study co-author Margaret Gatz, Professor of psychology at USC Dornsife.
The study was published in “Alzheimer’s & Dementia”: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
A possible explanation is the stress hormone cortisol. People suffering from anxiety have higher levels of cortisol in their blood. Chronically high cortisol levels are known to damage regions in the brain associated with memory functions.
The link between anxiety and dementia is surprisingly strong. So far the research focused on depression and other diseases associated with dementia. Anxiety seems to have a much higher risk. Future research is needed to find out if treatment can completely reverse the effect.
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