A study has claimed that anxiety may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, helping identify older adults who may be more susceptible to the disease.
Previous research has looked into the link between anxiety and Alzheimer’s, alongside things like depression and stress. Results have been inconclusive so far.
In this latest study, published in the The American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital assessed 270 elderly people who were defined as being “cognitively normal”. They were aged between 62 and 90 years old, and had no active psychiatric disorders.
They studied levels of amyloid beta, a protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease, and found that higher levels coincided with increased levels of anxiety in the individuals. This somewhat suggests that neuropsychiatric symptoms, like anxiety, may be an early indicator for Alzheimer’s before it has developed.
“When compared to other symptoms of depression such as sadness or loss of interest, anxiety symptoms increased over time in those with higher amyloid beta levels in the brain," said lead author Dr Nancy Donovan in a statement. "This suggests that anxiety symptoms could be a manifestation of Alzheimer's disease prior to the onset of cognitive impairment.”
Finding an early indicator of Alzheimer’s may not only help doctors treat the disease, but also slow or prevent the disease. Anxiety is quite common in older people, so it's possible rising anxiety levels could be useful in identifying Alzheimer’s. Further research is, as always, necessary. But so far the signs are this might be an interesting avenue to explore.
Earlier this week, we had some more Alzheimer’s news with researchers suggesting it might spread like an infection. They found evidence of the disease spreading from neuron to neuron like how an infection might advance in tissue.
And back in November, there was research suggesting that it might not start in the brain at all. Scientists found that amyloid beta produced elsewhere, such as in blood platelets and muscles, could play a part.
In 2017, 5.5 million Americans lived with Alzheimer’s, while close to 50 million around the world live with it or a related dementia. It causes memory loss, difficulties thinking, and more, but with no effective treatment available, finding it early to mitigate its effects is crucial.