Stress in older adults may trigger mild cognitive impairment

By Marilyn Malara   |   Dec. 12, 2015 at 3:52 PM

NEW YORK, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Stress is a possible trigger of mild cognitive impairment among older adults, new research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System says.

In a study published in the journal Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders, those prone to higher level of stress were more than twice as likely to experience cognitive impairment than those who are not.

"Our study provides strong evidence that perceived stress increases the likelihood that an older person will develop aMCI [amnestic mild cognitive impairment], said lead author Dr. Richard Lipton. "Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, making it a potential target for treatment."

To conduct the research, scientists analyzed data collected from 507 adults over the age of 70 enrolled in the Einstein Aging Study located in Bronx County, N.Y. During the study, 71 people were diagnosed with aMCI; gender, depression and education were also factors.

Because of the treatable nature of stress, researchers believe tending to anxiety problems in older adults might help lessen the rate of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the United States, which is roughly 470,000 annually.

"Perceived stress reflects the daily hassles we all experience, as well as the way we appraise and cope with these events," said co-author Mindy Katz in a statement. "Perceived stress can be altered by mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive-behavioral therapies and stress-reducing drugs. These interventions may postpone or even prevent an individual's cognitive decline."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports symptoms of Alzheimer's first appear in most adults after the age of 60 as risk increases as individuals age. It is known to be spurred by other factors such as family history and brain changes throughout life. Research into the correlation between the brain disease and education, diet and environment is ongoing.

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