Posted on Jan 22, 2016, 6 a.m.
Study on twins finds that anxious people are more at risk for dementia.
A recent study, conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California, has discovered that "frantic and frazzled people" have a 48 percent higher risk for dementia, compared to those who do not frequently experience feelings of anxiety. USC-led researchers studied 28 years of data from Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging, overseen by the Karolinska Institute of Sweden. The research included 1082 participants who were either fraternal or identical twins. Participants answered several questionnaires, completed in-person tests every three years, and were screened for dementia throughout the process. Numerous others studies have explored the link between dementia and psychological variables, such as depression and neuroticism. However, this study established that the anxiety-dementia link was independent of the role of depression as a risk factor. The researchers noted that the subjects had self-reported various levels of anxiety, which may or may not meet the clinical diagnostic threshold of psychiatric Anxiety disorder. Even so, the twin who developed dementia had a history of higher levels of anxiety, compared to the twin who did not develop dementia. To determine whether anxiety levels correlated to demential risk, researchers compared those who reported high anxiety with those who reported lower anxiety levels. “Those in the high anxiety group were about 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia,” Pektus said. According to Pektus, people who have high levels of anxiety tend to have higher levels of stress hormones, including cortisol. There’s outward signs that chronically high levels of cortisol damage parts of the brain such as the hippocampus, which stores memory, and the frontal cortex, which is liable for high-level thinking. They also noticed that the anxiety-dementia relationship was stronger among fraternal twins, who had only one develop dementia, than among identical twins.
The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.