The Link Between
Stress and Alzheimer’s
Discover simple strategies to reduce the amount of daily stress in your life that researchers say may hasten the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Losing a close family member. Experiencing legal problems. Dealing with the daily effects of a chronic illness. Life is full of stressful events. And most everyone has experienced at least one of the traumatic life events that researchers are now studying in an effort to uncover what appears to be a link between stress and Alzheimer’s disease.
With almost 6 million Americans suffering from the disease, a number expected to rise to 14 million by 2060, trying to understand and prevent the conditions that lead to seniors needing memory care has become an urgent societal mission.
According to a recent Australian study, this link between stress and Alzheimer’s might involve a stress response related to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Constant stress can affect the brain’s immune system and raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol which is common in people who have dementia.
While stress alone may not cause Alzheimer’s, it’s likely one risk factor that determines whether symptoms appear sooner in someone whose genetics predispose them to the disease. While you can’t erase major stressful events in the past, you can choose to reduce added risk by engaging in activities proven to promote relaxation.
These stress-reducing activities are easy and pleasant to do:
- Exercising — You don’t have to go to the gym to get a workout. Just taking a daily walk with friends, doing gentle yoga or a dip in the pool are all therapeutic types of exercise
- Improving sleep habits — Reducing stress can be as easy as going to bed at the same time every night. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cozy, turn off the TV and radio, and set aside your tablet and smartphone. Avoid eating a big meal, drinking coffee and caffeinated tea, or having a nightcap before hitting the hay.
- Managing chronic medical conditions — It goes without saying that feeling bad is stressful. Work with your doctor and be diligent in taking medications you need to stay healthy.
- Having fun — Make it a priority to slow down your busy schedule. Take time to enjoy a round of golf, an afternoon concert, a leisurely shopping trip with friends, or a laughter-filled evening at a comedy club.
And while there seems to be a link between stress and Alzheimer’s, don’t worry too much about it. Stress itself doesn’t cause the disease but doing whatever you can to turn it down a notch or two is one strategy you can use now that may help stave off memory problems in the future.
MorningStar Senior Living — Memory Care Community
If your loved one lives far from family and friends, it could be time to move into a memory care community near their adult children where they’ll have the companionship of fellow seniors and a compassionate service team. At MorningStar Senior Living, a 24/7 team is dedicated to offer senior care and hospitality services that meet each resident’s social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.