Researchers have long suggested that chronic stress and developing Alzheimer’s disease are linked, and a new study brings them a step closer to understanding how the two are related.
Examining the brain of mice, researchers at the University of California found that repeated stress triggered the production and accumulation of “tau protein” one of the physiological hallmarks of patients with Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Steven Arnold directs the Penn Memory Center. He says studying this issue in mice is one thing, but fully understanding the relationship between chronic stress and dementia in humans is more complex: “It could be that stress actually promoted the formation of the tao tangles, on the other hand, it’s also possible that the stress is just bad for the brain, in terms of a wear and tear effect,” Arnold said.
Arnold says the wear and tear from stress could make people more vulnerable to diseases like Alzheimer’s.
He says no matter what the mechanism, the toll stress takes on the brain has been well documented. “Chronic stress has long-term real biological, real physical effects on the functioning of brain cells, and many other parts of the body.”
He advises his patients that generally speaking – what’s good for the heart is good for the head – with stress reduction being an important part of healthy aging.