Loneliness May Be an Early Sign of Alzheimer's
Research shows that loneliness in older adults increases the risk for a number of health problems, including depression, heart disease, and cognitive decline. According to a new study, older adults who are lonely have higher levels of early Alzheimer's disease markers in the brain.
In a 2010 survey by AARP, about 32 percent of people 60 to 69 and 25 percent of those over the age of 70 reported feeling lonely. This recent study included 79 older adults with normal cognitive function. The average age of the study participants was 76. Researchers asked questions about how often each participant felt left out, isolated from others, or lacking in companionship to assess loneliness. Then, they used brain imaging to measure amyloid proteins in the brain. Amyloid proteins that clump together and form plaques are the hallmark for Alzheimer's.
Overall, study participants with high amyloid levels were 7.5 times more likely to be lonely than those with low levels of amyloids in the brain. According to researchers, loneliness is an early sign of Alzheimer's and is associated with changes in the brain related to the disease. The hope is that this finding may help identify older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer's earlier.
Image Credit: Thinkstock