Anxiety can damage brain, research shows

November 10, 2014

Science Daily/Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

People with mild cognitive impairment are at increased risk of converting to Alzheimer's disease within a few years, but a new study warns the risk increases significantly if they suffer from anxiety.

"Our findings suggest that clinicians should routinely screen for anxiety in people who have memory problems because anxiety signals that these people are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer's," said Dr. Linda Mah, principal investigator on the study, clinician-scientist with Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Dr. Mah is also a co-investigator in a multi-site study lead by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and partially funded by federal dollars (Brain Canada), to prevent Alzheimer's in people with late-life depression or MCI who are at high risk for developing the progressive brain disease.

"While there is no published evidence to demonstrate whether drug treatments used in psychiatry for treating anxiety would be helpful in managing anxiety symptoms in people with mild cognitive impairment or in reducing their risk of conversion to Alzheimer's, we think that at the very least behavioural stress management programs could be recommended. In particular, there has been research on the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction in treating anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer's --and this is showing promise," said Dr. Mah.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141110124352.htm

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