Alzheimer’s disease is likelier to develop in people who have increased anxiety symptoms, according to a new study. While researchers have not linked the disease to anxiety, they did find supporting evidence that Alzheimer’s is caused by high levels of beta-amyloid proteins, which were found in the brains of patients suffering from both conditions. The study was published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that causes memory loss and other cognitive disabilities. According to Alz.org, an estimated 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s dementia, out of which 5.3 million are 65 or older. More so, approximately 200 thousand Americans under the age of 65 suffer from early Alzheimer’s symptoms. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
A team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, focused on specific symptoms of depression and their relationship with amyloid beta build-ups in the brain. Researchers said that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have increased levels of beta-amyloid proteins.
“Rather than just looking at depression as a total score, we looked at specific symptoms such as anxiety,” said Dr. Nancy Donovan, lead author of the study.
According to Dr. Donovan, anxiety symptoms were found to increase over time in those with higher amyloid beta levels in the brain. This was seldom found to occur from other symptoms of depression such as sadness or loss of interest, claims the author.
The study involved 270 adults between the ages of 62 and 90 who were cognitively healthy at the time when the tests were performed. Over the course of five years, the participants were subjected to positron emission tomography (PET) scans to measure cortical levels of amyloid beta. In addition, they also had to undergo annual assessments examining depression symptoms across three categories: anxiety, apathy-anhedonia, and dysphoria.
Dr. Donovan and her team discovered a link between higher levels of amyloid beta proteins in the brain and increasing anxious-depressive symptoms. The author claims that anxiety may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s and should be caught in time to slow down or prevent the disease altogether.
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