Mid-life stress in women tied to dementia
A new study in Sweden, published in BMJ Open, concludes that stressful mid-life events can increase a woman’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
A group of 800 Swedish women ranging from late 30s to 50s underwent a variety of tests, and then followed up with recurring analysis over the next four decades. One in four women had experienced a stressful event – loss of a spouse, unemployment, divorce – and a similar proportion experienced two stressful events. One in five had experienced three stressful events. The remainder of the group experienced either a greater number of stressful events or none.
What happened next may surprise you. Over the years, 425 women died and 153 developed dementia. Looking back at the women’s history revealed a clear connection between those with stressful events and Alzheimer’s. The more stressful the event was, the greater the risk for dementia. Researchers believe the cause is stress hormones, which can trigger harmful changes in the brain.
There is no research yet on this connection in men. Although more research is required to determine a clear link, this study may prompt more studies into whether stress management could help deter dementia.