WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A new study reveals that increasing symptoms of anxiety in older people could likely develop to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Researchers discovered that worsening anxiety was linked to higher levels of beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- These protein fragments clump together in the brains of older people forming plaques disrupting neurons and eventually killing them.
Anxiety disorders are not the occasional worry or fear we experience but the type that does not go away. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the different types of anxiety disorders are general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
The team of researchers was led by Dr. Nancy Donovan, a geriatric psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. They say that the findings, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that increasing symptoms of anxiety could lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia which is distinguished by memory problems, a decline in thinking skills, and behavioral changes.
Approximately 5.5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s. About 98% are over the age of 65.
The new study found out that anxiety could play a significant role in increased beta-amyloid levels among older adults.
Prior researches have indicated that anxiety and depression might be indicators of Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Donovan and colleagues wanted to establish whether or not beta-amyloid might play a role in this association.
The participants of the study are 270 adults between age 62 and 90. They all have normal cognitive functioning. They all underwent positron emission tomography (PET scan) at the start and annually during 5 years of follow-up, to determine levels of beta-amyloid in their brains.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression among the adults were assessed using the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale.
Results reveal that adults who have worsening anxiety symptoms over 5 years of follow-up also had higher levels of beta-amyloid in their brains. The team says that this indicates that worsening anxiety might be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
“If further research substantiates anxiety as an early indicator, it would be important for not only identifying people early on with the disease but also, treating it and potentially slowing or preventing the disease process early on,” Dr. Donovan said.
The researchers emphasized that follow-up studies are needed to establish whether older adults who experience an increase in anxiety symptoms actually go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Source: Medical News Today