Stress Linked to Dementia in Women

Particularly in cases of divorce or losing a loved one

Stress linked to Dimentia in women

Stress linked to Dimentia in women

Women who feel like they are chronically stressed may have one more thing to worry about as a new study in BMJ Open has found that they may be at a higher risk for developing dementia.

The study is based on data culled from a large cohort of Swedish women that dates back to 1968, when study volunteers were at least 38 years old. The research team surveyed 800 women about their mental health at least once every decade until 2005.

The researchers also considered the women's experiences with 18 different stressful life events such divorce or a relative's illness and how those events affected them. Hospital records and results of neuropsychiatric exams were used to track the diagnoses of dementia.

By 2005, more than 150 women had developed dementia, including over 100 with Alzheimer's disease.

According to study author Lena Johansson, a neurologist at Gothenburg University in Sweden, the relationship between stress and dementia in women is mysterious considering factors such as poverty, diet, smoking and blood pressure can also play a role. She noted that those factors were considered in the study.

"I have no reason to think that this relation is not the same among men," Johansson told Reuters Health.

The study author emphasized that their findings do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship and other factors may account for the women developing dementia later in life.

"This is the best evidence by far to date linking psychosocial stressors with dementia. It's really astounding,” Robert S. Wilson, who studies Alzheimer's disease at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told Reuters Health.

He added that the study was particularly notable for its consideration of specific life events, not just reported stress levels, with respect to a later dementia diagnosis. While each person reacts to stressful life events differently, these events appeared to have a similar effect, said Wilson, who was not involved in the study.

"These are low-level chronic stressors that affect virtually every family network," he told Reuters, adding that people who may have experienced these events should not be overly concerned about dementia.

"I think these are modest effects overall," Wilson said.

"Stress and stressors are just one of several risk factors," Johansson said. "Not everyone who had stress or stressors developed (dementia)."

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