Effects of Stress on Seniors with Alzheimer’s

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How Stress Impacts Older Adults with Alzheimer in Des Moines, IA

Scientists have known the effects of stress on the human body for years. However, recently, a group of researchers from the University of California, Irvine, were determined to learn how stress affects the brain. The group was particularly interested in the effects stress has on the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Up to five million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a number that could more than double in the next three decades. Ongoing research to better understand the mechanisms involved in the disease process may lead to better treatments. The UC Irvine study indicates stress management and restricting some medications can prevent Alzheimer’s from progressing.

Impact of Stress

The scientists studied nine-month-old laboratory mice that were genetically altered to develop brain lesions similar to the abnormalities found in people with Alzheimer’s. Every day for seven days, the mice received injections of dexamethasone, a steroid that’s similar to cortisol, the hormone that’s released when humans experience stress. By the end of the week, the mice exhibited a 60 percent increase in the number of beta-amyloid protein fragments in their brains. The accumulation of fragments clumped together and created plaques. An increase in tangle-forming tau proteins was also found. Together, these proteins disrupt normal neuron formation and function, which interferes with normal communication between the cells. Alzheimer’s symptoms then appear. The researchers were amazed at how quickly stress affected the brains of the mice. Scientists were already aware people with Alzheimer’s have abnormally high cortisol levels during the early stages of the disease. If your senior loved one needs help managing an illness or assistance with daily tasks, make sure you choose a top-rated provider of in-home care. Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life in the golden years. From the mentally stimulating activities in our Cognitive Therapeutics Method to our friendly Care Managers who are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, we offer a wide array of high-quality at-home care services.

How Stress Stimulates Alzheimer’s

The study continued with the testing of younger mice. The animals were genetically modified but hadn’t yet developed the telltale lesions. The researchers didn’t expect to see the same physiological effects caused by the steroid in four-month-old mice. However, at the end of one week, the young mice also exhibited a high amount of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in their brains. The scientists theorized stress might be a major factor in stimulating the development of Alzheimer’s in individuals genetically predisposed to the disorder. The final phase of the study involved inoculating 13-month-old mice that exhibited a number of plaque and tangle lesions. Again, after steroid injections, the brains of the mice demonstrated a significant increase in the number of lesions. Although the scientists expected to find some brain changes, the disease progression that took place in such a short time was unexpected. The steroid injections also initiated a vicious cycle of destruction. As more proteins appeared secondary to the medication, the bodies of the mice produced stress hormones, which further increased the number of lesions. Living with Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a Des Moines elderly home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

Implications for Humans

The findings shed some light on future treatments for humans with Alzheimer’s. Several medications prescribed for older adults often contain glucocorticoids. If an older adult is predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s, these medications, combined with environmental stressors, could trigger the disease process or lead to the rapid progression of the disorder.  If your elderly loved one is living with Alzheimer’s and needs help managing the symptoms, turn to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of Alzheimer’s care. Des Moines seniors can rely on our revolutionary Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program that promotes cognitive health and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. CTM also encourages seniors to engage with others in an enjoyable way and helps them build new routines to look forward to. To learn about our high-quality in-home care options, give us a call at (515) 264-2438 today.


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