Researchers are studying the connection between anxiety and Alzheimer's
If people experience symptoms of increasing anxiety, this can be an early warning sign of the development of Alzheimer's. This effect can occur years before a cognitive impairment and indicate the development of the disease.
In their current investigation, the scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that increasing fears can be an early indication of the development of Alzheimer's disease. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The American Journal of Psychiatry".
Can fears point to Alzheimer's?
Various risk factors increase the likelihood that people will develop Alzheimer's in their lives. These include, for example, neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression. Researchers have now found that anxiety symptoms can be a dynamic marker of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
A high amyloid beta level can lead to anxiety
The examination did not examine the depression itself, but the doctors analyzed specific symptoms such as anxiety, explains author Nancy Donovan from Brigham and Women's Hospital. Compared to other symptoms of depression, such as grief or loss of interest, anxiety symptoms increased over time in patients with higher levels of amyloid beta in the brain, the expert added.
What is amyloid beta?
Amyloid beta is a protein that has been previously linked to Alzheimer's disease in research. Amyloid beta forms clusters in the brain, so-called plaques, which interrupt the communication between the neurons. Such disorders are considered to be the main cause of cognitive impairment from Alzheimer's disease. The brain disorder due to amyloid beta accumulation could also play an important role in the preclinical phase of the disease and may indicate the disease as early as ten years before the first symptoms appear.
Anxiety symptoms can indicate Alzheimer's
For their investigation, the scientists analyzed the data from the so-called Harvard Aging Brain Study. This study included 270 healthy men and women between the ages of 62 and 90 without active mental disorders. The subjects underwent various tests and were also examined for signs of depression every year. During the course of the study, the research team found that higher levels of amyloid beta in the brain were associated with increasing anxiety symptoms. This suggests that anxiety symptoms could be a manifestation of Alzheimer's disease before the onset of cognitive impairment, explains author Donovan.
Fears should be identified and treated early on
If further research confirms the growing fears as an early indicator, fears should not only be diagnosed early, they should be treated to potentially slow or even prevent the disease process, the doctors say.
More research is needed
Further studies now have to determine whether the subjects with escalating anxiety develop Alzheimer's. Investigations into emerging fears could be a useful tool to narrow down the most vulnerable patients, the researchers explain. The result of the current investigation reinforces the argument that neuropsychiatric changes may be associated with this amyloid plaque, adds Donovan. (as)