Bacteria related to gum disease can travel from the mouth to the brain.
The scientists followed over one thousand twins in Sweden over 28 years.
People who have experienced high levels of anxiety in their lives have a 48 percent higher risk of developing dementia.
Dr Andrew Petkus, who led the study, said:
“Anxiety, especially in older adults, has been relatively understudied compared to depression.
Depression seems more evident in adulthood, but it’s usually episodic.
Anxiety, though, tends to be a chronic lifelong problem, and that’s why people tend to write off anxiety as part of someone’s personality.”
The scientists followed over one thousand twins in Sweden over 28 years.
Each pair were tested every three years and screened for dementia symptoms.
Amongst identical twins, it was the more anxious of the pair that was at a higher risk of developing dementia.
This is the first study to find a link between anxiety and a higher risk of developing dementia.
Professor Margaret Gatz, a co-author of the study, described those in the high-anxiety group:
“They are people who you would say operate at a ‘high level of anxiety’.
They are frantic, frazzled people.
Those in the high anxiety group were about 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia.”
The link between anxiety and dementia could be a result of cortisol — the so-called ‘stress hormone’ — damaging the brain.
There may also be genetic factors that help explain the link.
The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia (Petkus et al., 2016).
The personality changes came ahead of more obvious behavioural changes linked to Alzheimer’s.
Increases in neuroticism may help to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s, new research finds.
Neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits and it involves a tendency towards worry and moodiness.
Neuroticism is characterised by negative thinking in a range of areas.
Neuroticism is strongly linked to anxiety, sadness, irritability and self-consciousness.
People who transition from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown Alzheimer’s are more likely to show personality changes.
Many people with mild cognitive impairment do not go on to develop dementia.
Both increased neuroticism and lower openness to experience predict the progression of the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.
The conclusions come from a study that followed people for more than 7 years.
They were tested for personality, anxiety, depression and other symptoms.
The researchers found that personality changes typically came after memory had begun to worsen.
Increases in depression, anxiety and anger were strongly linked to the transition to dementia.
However, the personality changes came before typical behaviour changes — such as like mood swings — were obvious.
The study’s authors write that Alzheimer’s disease is…
“…characterized by greater neuroticism and less openness; and coincide with subtle, clinically insignificant behavioral changes that qualitatively mirror and anticipate the clinically severe behavioral problems that often complicate dementia care.”
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Caselli et al., 2018).
Sleep pattern lowered levels of an antioxidant that helps fight cellular damage, such as that caused by Alzheimer’s.
Sleep disruptions similar to jet lag could cause memory problems linked to Alzheimer’s disease, research finds.
It’s well-known by scientists that there’s a link between Alzheimer’s and sleep, but not what causes what.
Professor Gregory Brewer, who led the research, said:
“The issue is whether poor sleep accelerates the development of Alzheimer’s disease or vice versa.
It’s a chicken-or-egg dilemma, but our research points to disruption of sleep as the accelerator of memory loss.”
The research gave jet-lag to mice that had been genetically engineered to suffer from Alzheimer’s.
They did this by moving the dark period every three days to a different time — which is what causes jet-lag.
The jet-lagged mice had lower levels of an antioxidant that helps fight cellular damage, such as that caused by Alzheimer’s.
This suggests it could be poor sleep that is contributing to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Brewer said:
“This study suggests that clinicians and caregivers should add good sleep habits to regular exercise and a healthy diet to maximize good memory.”
Dementia and sleep
Many other studies have found a link between dementia and sleep.
People who sleep for too little or too long are at a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Indeed, people who sleep more than 9 hours a night have double the risk of developing dementia, one study found.
However, those who sleep for between 5.5 and 7.5 hours per night do not see declines in their cognitive health, even when suffering the early effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Those sleeping longer also have lower brain volumes.
Also, getting less REM sleep — the phase in which we dream — is linked to dementia.
During sleep the brain cycles between periods of deep sleep and then up towards shallower periods of sleep in which we tend to dream, whether we remember those dreams or not.
During REM sleep the eyes move rapidly from side-to-side (hence Rapid Eye Movement Sleep).
The most common signs of sleep apnea, which affects 30 percent of older people, include:
- Loud snoring,
- gasping for air during sleep,
- breathing stopping for brief periods during the night,
- morning headache,
- and daytime sleepiness and irritability.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Brewer et al., 2015).
Patients were also 40 percent less likely to progress from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown dementia after taking the drug.
While the drink used to be thought safe for brain health, the latest research finds otherwise.
Drinking as little as three glasses of wine or three cans of beer per week is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, research finds.
People who drank more than this amount of any alcohol, the study found, had elevated levels of iron in their brains.
Iron accumulation has been found in both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and may help to explain cognitive decline.
The research included over 20,000 people included in the UK Biobank study.
All had reported their alcohol consumption and had their brains scanned, while 7,000 had had MRIs of their livers to assess iron levels.
Average alcohol intake was around 18 UK units, which is equivalent to over 7 cans of beer or 6 large glasses of wine.
The results showed that anything above 7 units per week was linked to high levels of iron in the basal ganglia, a group of neurons involved in a whide range of cognitive functions, such as learning, movement and the emotions.
Dr Anya Topiwala, the study’s first author, said:
“In the largest study to date, we found drinking greater than 7 units of alcohol weekly associated with iron accumulation in the brain.
Higher brain iron in turn linked to poorer cognitive performance.
Iron accumulation could underlie alcohol-related cognitive decline.”
In the US, 7 units is this is about 4 standard drinks, which are 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of a distilled spirit.
Reassessing alcohol’s effect on the brain
While moderate drinking used to be thought safe for brain health, the latest research finds otherwise.
Lower and lower amounts of alcohol have been linked to cognitive decline and neurodegeneration.
For example, as little as one alcoholic drink per day has been linked to brain shrinkage.
People who have as little as a glass of wine or pint of beer each day show greater signs of brain shrinkage with age.
Averaging four drinks a day was linked by this study to the equivalent of 10 years of brain aging.
The more people drink, therefore, the stronger the association gets between alcohol and brain shrinkage.
The study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine (Topiwala et al., 2022).
The exercise is anti-inflammatory and reduces levels of stress hormones.
Approaching 1 million people were included in the research.
Marriage can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 42 percent, research finds.
The conclusions come from 15 studies published over many years involving over 800,000 people in three continents.
The results showed that compared with married people, lifelong singletons were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia.
People who were widowed had a 20 percent increased chance of developing dementia.
Divorce, though, was not linked to an increased risk of dementia.
More recent studies included in the review suggest the benefit from being married is reducing, although it is not clear why.
The protective effect of marriage could be down to couples helping each other live healthier lives.
They may exercise more, eat a healthier diet and get more social stimulation.
The study’s authors conclude:
“Being married is associated with reduced risk of dementia than widowed and lifelong single people, who are also underdiagnosed in routine clinical practice.
Dementia prevention in unmarried people should focus on education and physical health and should consider the possible effect of social engagement as a modifiable risk factor.”
The study was published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (Sommerlad et al., 2018).
A study of hundreds of nuns and monks reveals which trait cuts Alzheimer’s risk in half.
Being conscientious cuts the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half, research finds.
People who are conscientious tend to be more organised, responsible and in control of their impulses.
The study’s authors explain:
“Conscientiousness (eg, “I am a productive person who always gets the job done”) refers to a tendency to be self-disciplined, scrupulous, and purposeful.”
They are also more likely to follow through on their duties and obligations.
The study of hundreds of nuns and monks found that those who were more productive and reliable were less likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s.
People high on conscientiousness were also more likely to experience a slower cognitive decline with age and lower risk of mild cognitive impairment (a risk factor for Alzheimer’s).
The results come from a study of 997 elderly nuns, priests and monks, none of whom had dementia at the start of the study.
Many were followed up for more than a decade.
The brains of those that died were examined for markers of Alzheimer’s.
The study revealed that those with the highest levels of conscientiousness were at an 89% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to those with the lowest levels.
Surprisingly, the results could not be explained by conscientious people living more healthily.
Instead, the authors write that it could be partly down to education:
“…conscientiousness is a consistent predictor of academic and occupational performance.
Both level of educational and occupational attainment and the nature of occupational experiences have been associated with risk of AD.
Highly conscientious people may have a more intensive exposure to these educational and occupational experiences than less conscientious individuals and thereby derive additional benefit.”
Being conscientious may also buffer against life stress, they write:
“Conscientiousness is associated with a higher level of resilience and greater reliance on task-oriented coping.
These factors might lessen the adverse consequences of negative life events and chronic psychological distress, which have been associated with risk of dementia in old age.”
The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry (Wilson et al., 2007).
The study is the latest in a line of research suggesting that gamma waves in different modalities could help fight Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.