Exploring the Link Between Stress and Dementia

Happy senior woman in garden.

The first thing to understand about dementia is that it is not a specific disease. Rather, it’s an overall term describing a group of symptoms associated with memory loss or other critical thinking skills. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are neurological disorders that affect millions of people all over the world. With projections suggesting that the number of people affected will continue to grow, researchers are seeking to discover the exact cause. Some factors have been identified such as age, lifestyle, family history, and genetics. But with stress being something that everyone experiences almost daily, one has to wonder: can stress cause dementia, too?

Stress and Dementia Risk

While there is currently no clear research that gives a definitive answer, the evidence strongly suggests that stress and anxiety are risk factors for dementia. In other words, a person under constant prolonged stress has a much higher chance of developing dementia than a person who experiences stress less frequently.

To further complicate things, some of the same symptoms people experience while under stress are similar to those of dementia. These include:

  • Trouble learning new information. Dementia sufferers also experience this, as well as short-term memory problems.
  • Forgetfulness, disorganization and confusion. Those with dementia have difficulty remembering and keeping things organized.
  • Depression or frequent and extreme mood swings. Depression is a common ailment and risk factor for dementia.
  • Difficulty in making decisions. Decision-making requires many parts of the brain to communicate with each other, which could be a problem for seniors with dementia.

Stress and Your Body

In addition to the above symptoms, stress can also cause physical problems as well. Stress causes brain inflammation, which can lead to increased vulnerability of the brain to develop health problems, such as dementia.

Stress can also negatively affect another vital organ within the body – the heart. Your heart is responsible for regulating blood flow through the numerous blood vessels within your body, and the brain is a major destination for blood and blood vessels. Stressful situations can cause heart problems such as rapid heartbeat, heartburn, rapid pulse, high blood pressure, stroke, and chest pains. Prolonged stress and heart problems interfere with the flow of blood and the function of blood vessels themselves, which can alter the brain’s ability to function properly. This can produce a ripe environment for brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Stress Management for Seniors

Stress management is important not just for everyday living, but it can also be a useful tool for delaying or even preventing the onset of dementia. Here are some quick tips to help with stress:

  1. Pay attention to what happens to your body when you are under stress. Does your stomach get upset? Do you sweat or get chills? Sometimes our bodies know that we’re stressed out before we know.
  2. Consider breathing techniques to slow the pacing of your heart while under stress. This will help regulate your blood flow while you’re processing information.
  3. Remove yourself from the stressful situation, if possible. If not, try taking deep, slow breaths until you feel calm.
  4. Consult with friends or family about how best to handle a stressful mood. Sometimes you just need a kind ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on.

Compassionate Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care at Advent Christian Village

With memory care services at Advent Christian Village’s Good Samaritan Center, your loved one will receive specialized, professional support from our caring and well-trained staff in a secure setting. Our goal is to provide the best possible care and ensure that our residents enjoy the meaningful and vibrant life they deserve. Contact us today for more information.

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