Stress Triggers Alzheimer's Disease

by Sheela Philomena on Mar 18 2013 2:27 PM

 Stress Triggers Alzheimer
A stressful lifestyle leads to Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.
In a mice study, they found that chronic stress sends levels of steroids in the brain soaring. This not only accelerates the development of Alzheimer's but also boosts levels of the toxic plaque amyloid beta, which can ravage the brain, the Daily Express reported.

Stress steroids could affect the brain's general activity, said Sara Bengtsson, of Sweden's Umea University.

Chronically elevated levels of one in particular, called allopregnanolone, accelerated the disease development in research involving mice, she stated.

When levels of the steroid were increased, the mice with Alzheimer's developed impaired learning and memory. They also developed increased brain levels of amyloid beta, the proteins that form devastating plaques in Alzheimer's disease, the researchers found.

The study also showed that high levels of these amyloids were directly linked to the dysfunction in brain synapses, the connections between nerve cells.

It is the loss of synapses that brings about memory loss, mood swings and communication problems in those suffering from Alzheimer's.

The high amyloid levels and synapse abnormality were seen after a short period of chronically elevated levels of allopregnanolone but not after a placebo treatment.

The effects were also identified early in the disease development when the animals' memory function would usually be intact.

Amyloid beta is thought to build up in the brain for at least a decade before outward signs of dementia.

The researchers said that if a similar acceleration was seen in humans, it could mean the difference between sufferers managing at home and needing professional care.

Amyloid beta is thought to build up in the brain for at least a decade before outward signs of dementia.

The sticky protein forms harmful "plaques" which destroy the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, killing off nerves and causing devastating symptoms such as memory loss and confusion.

Finding ways of preventing the plaques is seen as the key to wiping out Alzheimer's.

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer's Research UK, noted that the research was not carried out in people.

Some research has already highlighted a possible link between chronic stress, cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer's, and Ridley said that further study in people is needed to fully investigate these links.

He suggested that if the risk factors for Alzheimer's are well understood, people could be empowered to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.