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Is Anxiety a Precursor of Alzheimer’s Disease?


Researchers have discovered that worsening anxiety may be an early symptom of the onset of Alzheimers disease a new study from Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston shows elevated amyloid beta accumulation and anxiety symptoms as an early indicator of Alzheimers disease. These study findings suggest that neuropsychiatric symptoms could support an early indication of Alzheimers disease in older adults.

The Link Between Depression and Alzheimer’s Risk

What is known is that Alzheimers is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by a decline of cognitive function and the inability to manage daily life. Several recent studies have pointed to a correlation between depression and other neuropsychiatric symptoms that may be precursors to Alzheimers disease during its initial phase when brain deposits of amyloid fibrils and pathological tau accumulates in a patients brain. Depression can take place more than 10 years before a patients preclinical onset of mild cognitive impairment.

Study Finds Anxiety May Be an Early Indication ofAlzheimers

Medical researchers at Brigham and Womens Hospital studied the link between elevated amyloid beta levels in the brain with long-term symptoms of depression in older normal adults. The study participants were older adult volunteers in a Harvard Aging Brain Study, including 270 normal men and women between the ages of 62 and 90 years of age with no active psychiatric disorders.

Published on January 12th in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the study reveals a new association with higher levels of amyloid beta and increasing symptoms of anxiety in the older adults. These results suggest that neuropsychiatric symptoms could be an early sign of Alzheimers disease.

The leading author of the study, Nancy Donovan, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, reported that her research team examined specific symptoms like anxiety rather than just general depression. Anxiety symptoms increased over time in individuals with higher levels of amyloid beta in their brain, compared to other symptoms of depression, including loss of interest or sadness.

Her findings indicate that anxiety could be a manifestation of Alzheimers disease before even the onset of cognitive impairment. The study reveals anxiety as an early indicator of Alzheimers disease. The findings are important for identifying adults early on with the illness as well as treating it, and possibly slowing or preventing the disease altogether in its earliest stages.

Although anxiety is common in older people, rising levels of anxiety symptoms may be useful as an early risk marker in older adults with a genetic, biological or clinical predisposition of a high risk of Alzheimers disease.

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