Anxiety can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease for those individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), according to researchers at Baycrest Health Sciences’ Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. Scientists looked at a sample of 376 adults with MCI, ages 55-91, every six months over a three-year period. They used neuroimaging to analyze brain structural changes. They found that for MCI patients with mild, moderate, or severe anxiety, Alzheimer’s risk increased by 33 percent, 78 percent, and 135 percent respectively. Additionally, the researchers found that MCI patients who had reported anxiety over the follow-up period had more atrophy in the medial temporal lobe – the area responsible for creating memories and an area of the brain that is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. (American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, online October 29th, 2014)
This is a fascinating study that links anxiety to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. What the study does not specifically address is whether anxiety treatment for these individuals would reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s or perhaps slower its development. Perhaps this area will be addressed by future research.