Stress Ages the Brain Faster than Normal
Research presented at the recent 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC 2017) in London suggests stressful events early in life contribute to brain aging and increase the risk for dementia later in life. In fact, according to one study, a single stressful event can age the brain the equivalent of about four years. The research also suggests that African Americans are at higher lifetime risk than non-Hispanic Caucasians, experiencing 60 percent more stressful events overall.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health examined the impact of stressful experiences on cognitive function as part of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention (WRAP) study, which involved 1,320 adults, including 82 African Americans and 1,232 non-Hispanic Caucasians. The goal of the study was to determine the effect of stressful life experiences—being fired from a job, the death of a child, having a parent who abused drugs or alcohol, or physical/psychological trauma, for example—on cognitive aging.
According to researchers, a greater number of stressful events was associated with reduced cognitive function later in life. Other research presented at AAIC 2017 suggests living in a disadvantaged neighborhood increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.