Anxiety indicates an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease progression, as per a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) at Oak Brook, Illinois.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by a decline in memory and cognition due to the formation of plaques and subsequent loss of nerve cells in the brain tissue. The most commonly affected areas are the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex.
Being a major public health crisis worldwide, Alzheimer's disease stands fifth among the leading causes of death in US individuals above 65 years of age, showing twice the increased rate of death since 2000.
Anxiety and Alzheimer's disease:
The study conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston, explored the link between anxiety and its effects on brain structures causing AD. 339 patients with mild cognitive impairment, of age around 72 years from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative 2 cohort, were enrolled in the study. Among these, 72 individuals developed Alzheimer's disease.
MRI images of the brain and the frequency of the most common genetic factor associated with the AD - ApoE4allele were recorded. Clinical surveys were utilized to measure the Anxiety among these patients.
Notable loss of brain volumes in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex along with the greater frequency of the ApoE4allele was seen in patients who progressed to Alzheimer's disease, independent of anxiety.
"Mild cognitive impairment patients with anxiety symptoms developed Alzheimer's disease faster than individuals without anxiety, independently of whether they had a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease or brain volume loss," said study first author Jenny L. Ulber, a medical student at MUSC.
Evidence on the association of anxiety with mild cognitive decline long exists, without a clearly understood mechanism. "We don't know yet if the anxiety is a symptom--in other words, their memory is getting worse and they become anxious--or if anxiety contributes to cognitive decline", says Dr. Spampinato, M.D., professor of radiology at MUSC.
The study suggests that anxiety screening among the elderly would add on to the early interventions like pharmacological or cognitive behavioral therapy. This can slow down the progression of cognitive decline.
Further assessment of the study focuses on the follow-up MRI scans and gender differences to better correlation between anxiety and cognitive decline.