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New research conducted into links with chronic stress and Alzheimer's
Date of article: 02-Jul-12
Article By: Rachel Baker, News Editor
Chronic stress and whether it is linked to Alzheimer’s is being investigated in a new Alzheimer’s Society funded research project.
It is part of a £1.5 million package of six grants being given by Alzheimer's Society fighting to find a cause, cure and way to prevent the disease.
Professor Clive Holmes is the lead investigator for the stress study at the University of Southampton. He said: “All of us go through stressful events. We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's.
“This is the first stage in developing ways in which to intervene with psychological or drug based treatments to fight the disease.”
The study will involve monitoring 140 people aged 50 and over with mild cognitive impairment, over 18 months. Participants will be assessed for levels of stress and for any progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.
About 60 per cent of people with mild cognitive impairment are known to go on to develop Alzheimer's.
Prof Holmes said: “There is a lot of variability in how quickly that progression happens; one factor increasingly implicated in the process is chronic stress. That could be driven by a big change - usually negative - such as a prolonged illness, injury or a major operation.
“We are looking at two aspects of stress relief - physical and psychological - and the body's response to that experience. Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience - possibly even moving home - is also a potential factor.”
Alzheimer's Society research manager, Anne Corbett, said: “The study will look at the role chronic stress plays in the progression from mild thinking and memory problems - Mild Cognitive Impairment - to Alzheimer's disease.
“We feel this is a really important area of research that needs more attention. The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition.
“It will also be valuable to understand how different ways of coping with stressful life events could influence the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.”
Alzheimer’s Society say illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis are known to develop earlier or are made worse by chronic stress. It says surprisingly little research has been done in people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease in relation to their experience of stress.
The charity hopes that more effective coping methods for dealing with stress and a greater understanding of its biological impact may provide the answer.