Do you feel stressed sometimes? We all do. But if you notice someone, a loved one, a friend, even a coworker becoming increasingly anxious or frustrated, those rising stresses can actually speed up the processes of dementia and the dreaded thief, Alzheimer’s disease.
Recognizing stress and its connection to Alzheimer’s matters to me because my wife has been largely taken from me by Alzheimer’s. She began showing signs of dementia long before her diagnosis in 2013 at age 55. She knew something was wrong, and we knew it, too. But we didn’t know that we needed to ask ourselves some key questions that might have helped her. We can’t change it now, but research is showing that we could have had a different outcome, and that’s truly heartbreaking. So, I want you to know more about stress and the early detection of dementia.
As part of a course of study on Alzheimer’s, I’ve seen the scientific research that shows that increases in stress also increase chemicals in the brain that are related to how the brain builds up the cellular plaques and neural tangles that are the hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer’s.
What we also know is that if someone has the early signs of dementia, called Mild Cognitive Impairment, they don’t necessarily get a full case of Alzheimer’s. This gives us hope.
The current belief is that if we can identify the symptoms of this disease early, we might be able to alleviate the stressors, add ways to cope, and ultimately slow or even halt the progress of cognitive decline.
This is an area of intense research. Today, the only predictor of Alzheimer’s is advancing age, a VERY poor predictor.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a list of 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s, and I highly recommend that you review this whenever you or someone you know and care about is feeling anxious or stressed. As the saying goes, if you see something, say something. If one of the signs seems to appear too often, talk about it with the person. Be gentle, be respectful, and be kind. You might be saving them some intense psychological pain. You might even be prolonging their life.
And please read down to the section where it discusses the signs that are NOT Alzheimer’s. We all have stress; we all make mistakes. It’s not all Alzheimer’s, thankfully, but we all need a little help and comfort at times. The key is seeing the signs repeatedly over time.
Just knowing these signs, and taking a moment to gently talk to someone under stress can, by itself, help to relieve stress so that hopefully we don’t add one more patient to the growing list of those living and dying with Alzheimer’s Disease.