We’ve all experienced stress at some point in our lives and heard how it can affect our bodies. Stress can cause increased blood pressure and inflammation, but can stress cause other serious conditions, like Alzheimer’s?
While stress itself can’t directly cause Alzheimer’s disease, the effects it has on your brain may be linked to an increased risk of experiencing cognitive decline. Apart from inflammation and increased blood pressure, stress can eventually alter the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain essential for memory retention and formation).
While chronic stress isn’t believed to directly cause the development of memory impairment, the effects it has on your body can lead to long-term damage to your brain. These effects can include higher blood pressure, high cholesterol, or even lifestyle and exercise changes. These changes, an indirect result of chronic stress, may lead to an increased risk of developing memory impairment.
Dementia is a serious condition that can affect all aspects of a person’s life, so it’s important to regulate your stress levels and make appropriate lifestyle changes to avoid developing this condition.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that directly affects memory, thinking, and cognitive function. This condition is the most common form of dementia and can affect all aspects of a person’s life.
Alzheimer’s is characterized by an abnormal buildup of protein deposits in the brain, which can clump together and interfere with how your brain cells operate and communicate, leading to eventual damage and potential death. As your brain cells become more damaged, this condition leads to a decline in cognitive function.
A progressive condition, Alzheimer’s symptoms generally start mildly and eventually become more severe. In early stages, it’s typical to experience:
- Mild memory loss
- Slight behavioral changes
- Difficulty with problem-solving
- Communication problems
As the disease progresses, these symptoms become much worse, including:
- Severe memory loss
- Loss of physical function
- Communication problems
- Weight change
- Damage to the immune system
Alzheimer’s progresses at different rates for different people, and not every person with this condition will experience all these symptoms.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
While the exact causes of Alzheimer’s are unknown, some factors can contribute to the likelihood of it developing, such as:
A person’s likelihood of developing this condition increases with age, and it’s believed their genetics and family history are related to their chances of experiencing it. Additionally, certain lifestyle factors, like diet, exercise, and substance abuse are expected to contribute to the likelihood of suffering from memory impairment later in life.
However, recent studies are researching if chronic stress may affect whether or not a person will experience memory impairment in their lives.
The Relationship Between Stress & Alzheimer’s
While stress itself doesn’t directly cause conditions like Alzheimer’s, it’s believed that it may be linked to an increased likelihood of this condition developing. Chronic stress can lead to inflammation and damage to the brain, contributing to the formation of proteins that contribute to Alzheimer’s.
It’s also believed that chronic stress can lead to changes in the hippocampus, causing it to reduce in size. The hippocampus is the part of the brain important for memory formation and retention. Damage to the hippocampus can lead to cognitive decline over time.
Stress can also cause side effects that increase health risks that can increase one’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory impairment, such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cortisol levels
- Damage to blood cells
Additionally, a person’s coping mechanisms to deal with stress can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices linked to the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. When stressed, some people may turn to tobacco, alcohol, or other substances, or change their diet or stop exercising. All of these may be linked to the development of memory impairment.
How to Treat Alzheimer’s
While there are steps you can take to help treat memory impairment, it’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s is an extremely complex medical condition that can’t easily be handled alone. As this condition progresses, it often renders a person incapable of many daily tasks, leading to the need for round-the-clock care.
This is where memory care communities can offer support. These residential communities are specifically designed to help combat the complications caused by cognitive decline. The teams working at memory care communities are trained to help residents struggling with all forms of memory impairment in their daily needs, making these communities an excellent choice for those with Alzheimer’s.
At Fox Trail Memory Care in Cresskill, we understand how difficult Alzheimer’s can be to deal with, and we’re here for you and your family. To see for yourself the high level of care we give each and every resident, schedule a tour with us today.