Anxiety May Boost Dementia Risk
It’s ironic. An inordinate amount of worrying might actually increase your chances of developing dementia -- one of the major conditions many of us worry about.
That's the conclusion of new research published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry.
A team from Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Canada reviewed recent evidence from studies of stress and fear conditioning in animals, as well as neuroimaging studies of stress and anxiety in both healthy people and clinical populations.
Chronic stress can cause the brain's hippocampus to atrophy. This brain area is important for long-term memory and spatial navigation.
The investigators zeroed in on key structures involved with fear and anxiety, which includes the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the hippocampus. And they found patterns of aberrant brain activity in the wake of fear, anxiety and chronic stress. The amygdala was overactive and the PFC -- which contains the "thinking areas" of the brain that regulate emotional responses -- was underactive.
These changes in the brain could increase the risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.
But the researchers did note that damage to the hippocampus and PFC as a result of stress is not entirely irreversible. Both anti-depressant treatments and physical activity have shown promise in repairing that damage.
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