How Anxiety Increases Your Risk Of Dementia
Does anxiety increase your risk of dementia? Or is anxiety an early sign of dementia? A recent study by Amy Gimson, a researcher at the University of Southamptons Faculty of Medicine, suggests that it is, indeed, anxiety that increases your risk of dementia.
In a review of four studies that looked at over 40,000 participants, researchers found a positive connection between moderate to severe anxiety and the likelihood of developing dementia within 10 years.
Here are the four big ways that anxiety may increase your risk of dementia and what you can do to keep your brain healthier:
Anxiety Causes Your Brain To Age Faster
A study conducted by the Brigham and Womens Hospital in 2012 discovered that anxiety caused the brain to appear six years older. Participants with chronic phobic anxiety were found to have shorter telomere lengths, the tip of the chromosome in your DNA. Short telomeres become weaker and therefore, your cells age faster.
However, another study conducted by scientists at the University of California San Francisco provides hope. The length of your telomere can be affected by adopting healthy habits.
Brain Tip: Josine Verhoeven, a researcher at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, suggests that exercise can help to maintain your telomere length. Aim to add more movement to your day. Physical activity helps to decrease your stress levels and increase the blood flow to your brain.
Anxiety Complicates Life For Dementia Patients And Their Caregivers
Late one night, the phone rings. Its my mom. I brace myself and pick up.
The Baltimore police just called, she says. Your brother is in jail!
I know well, Im pretty certain that my brother, who lives hundreds of miles from Baltimore and is a law-abiding family man, isnt in jail, but that doesnt really matter. Right now, the point is to calm my mom down.
So, I tell my mom that Ill figure it out and get back to her. I take a deep breath and send a quick text to my brother, who confirms hes nowhere near Baltimore or a jail cell and promises to call her right away. I call my mom back a few minutes later, and on this night, the calls do the trick. Everything is okay again, for the moment.
In recent months, Ive gotten quite a few perplexing and frantic calls as my kind, intelligent, 91-year-old mom struggles with Alzheimers disease.
Unfortunately, she is one of many people whose descent into dementia has been twinned with a surge of anxious thoughts. Anxiety isnt a cognitive issue per se, but its definitely a symptom that makes life much harder for caregiver and patient alike. Just imagine being stuck in your worst worries.
Anxiety may be part of the disease process, she said.
For caregivers, identifying patients anxiety triggers can be helpful.
On a positive note, Drew and others gave me credit for not telling my mom the police story was absurd but simply accepting it taking it seriously but not escalating the situation.
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Alzheimer’s And Other Causes Of Dementia
There are several disease processes that can result in dementia. These causes include Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy-body disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Vascular dementia, and head injury to name a few. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, representing approximately 75% of all cases. Alzheimer’s disease is marked by a gradual functional decline, with difficulties with naming, rapid forgetting of newly learned information, and changes in executive functioning. Other forms of dementia have symptoms that overlap with those of Alzheimer’s disease, but the particular pattern of impairment differs for each disease. For example, patients with Lewy-body dementia usually demonstrate fluctuating levels of function and cognition, with relatively preserved naming, spared memory storage but impaired retrieval, and behavioral manifestations such as hallucinations early in the disease process.
The clinical symptoms of dementia fall into two categories: cognitive and neuropsychiatric. Cognitive symptoms include impairments in memory, language, orientation, recognition, and executive functions. In the case above, Mrs. R.’s forgetfulness and inability to use common household items he was previously proficient with are examples of cognitive deficits.
Give New Interventions A Try
Even though research is still emerging, studies suggest that psychosocial interventions are currently the best and lowest-risk treatments for depression and anxiety in older adults with cognitive impairment. A broad range of supportive approaches for nonmedication treatments exists, and should be used if available as a first-line treatment.
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Youre Not Moving As Well As Usual
Difficulties with movement and performing physical activities in the right sequence can be an early sign of damage to the parietal lobe, which is related to motor skillsand this is one of the signs that Eva thinks she overlooked in her husband. Three years before his diagnosis, the couple began to participate in dragon-boat racing. Chow had always been a well-coordinated athlete and handyman, but during training he struggled to learn the basic stroke technique. The coach kept telling him, This is the way you do it. Steve didnt get it very well, and he was upset with the coach, says Eva.
Motor problems are also common with Lewy body dementia, but other neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinsons and multiple sclerosis, should be considered, as well.
Health Fears Are An Anxiety Symptom
One of the problems with living with anxiety is that it tends to cause itself, using its own symptoms. Feelings of dementia are a great example of this. Anxiety causes the mind to think differently and feel funny, and this causes people to worry they have a serious brain condition, which in turn causes them to be oversensitive to the way their mind works and suffer from the very problems they’re monitoring.
Men and women of all ages have convinced themselves of:
- Early Onset Alzheimer’s
- Brain Tumors
- Huntington’s Disease
These are all serious diseases, and if you truly think you have one of these, you should see a doctor. But you should also note that anxiety causes the very same issues. Not just dementia, but also the nerve impulses and other brain health issues that make people fear those diseases in the first place.
Why anxiety causes dementia like feelings is a bit less clear and less obvious. It is likely caused by many different factors, including those below:
These are all examples of issues that can cause feelings of dementia, despite no dementia present.
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Stage : Mild Dementia
At this stage, individuals may start to become socially withdrawn and show changes in personality and mood. Denial of symptoms as a defense mechanism is commonly seen in stage 4. Behaviors to look for include:
- Difficulty remembering things about one’s personal history
- Difficulty recognizing faces and people
In stage 4 dementia, individuals have no trouble recognizing familiar faces or traveling to familiar locations. However, patients in this stage will often avoid challenging situations in order to hide symptoms or prevent stress or anxiety.
What Is The Clock Test For Dementia
The clock test is a non-verbal screening tool that may be used as part of the assessment for dementia, Alzheimers, and other neurological problems. The clock test screens for cognitive impairment. The individual being screened is asked to draw a clock with the hour and minute hands pointing to a specific time. Research has shown that six potential errors in the clock testthe wrong time, no hands, missing numbers, number substitutions, repetition, and refusalcould be indicative of dementia.
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Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment
Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:
- Getting lost easily
- Noticeably poor performance at work
- Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
- Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
- Losing or misplacing important objects
- Difficulty concentrating
Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.
Understanding The Causes And Finding Ways To Cope
When someone with dementia lashes out at you for seemingly no reason, it’s normal to feel surprised, discouraged, hurt, irritated, and even angry at them. Learning what causes anger in dementia, and how best to respond, can help you cope.
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Impact On Cognitive Decline
The anxiety can be commonly occurred before the dementia is not apparent. A study of anxiety in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment reported that individuals with a Generalized Anxiety Inventory score 10 showed more behavioral and psychological symptoms, agitation, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. Instrumental activities of daily living and executive functions assessed by the Trail Making B Test are also more compromised. High levels of anxiety in patients with MCI have an adverse effect on executive functioning.
Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Although the early signs vary, common early symptoms of dementia include:
- memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
- increasing confusion
- apathy and withdrawal or depression
- loss of ability to do everyday tasks.
Sometimes, people fail to recognise that these symptoms indicate that something is wrong. They may mistakenly assume that such behaviour is a normal part of the ageing process. Symptoms may also develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. Also, some people may refuse to act, even when they know something is wrong.
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The Challenges Of Caregiving
It can be very challenging to care for a loved one with dementia who develops neuropsychiatric symptoms Ã¢â¬â even with simple, everyday and mundane tasks like eating. It is important to reach out to health care providers, both for the individual with dementia as well as for yourself, in order to ensure the physical and mental health of both caregiver and receiver. Many resources are available online and locally which may be useful in helping you care for your loved ones. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association is a nationwide organization devoted to research on Alzheimer’s disease, as well as to directing patients and their families towards local caregiving resources. More information about the Alzheimer’s Association can be found at: http://www.alz.org/. The National Institute of Mental Health is another nationwide organization devoted to the treatment of mental illness, including dementia, which can be useful for identifying treatment directions, and for assisting caregivers with supportive resources. More information about the National Institute of Mental Health can be found at: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dementia.html
Is Dementia A Mental Illness
Dementia is a mental health disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the name to Major Neurocognitive Disorder, which is a mouthful. The change was made in order to provide a clearer description of the problem. Whats most important to know is that dementias can involve changes to emotions, behaviors, perceptions, and movements in addition to memory and thinking.
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Common Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Different types of dementia can affect people differently, and everyone will experience symptoms in their own way.
However, there are some common early symptoms that may appear some time before a diagnosis of dementia. These include:
- memory loss
- difficulty concentrating
- finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
- struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
- being confused about time and place
- mood changes
These symptoms are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. It’s often termed “mild cognitive impairment” as the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.
You might not notice these symptoms if you have them, and family and friends may not notice or take them seriously for some time. In some people, these symptoms will remain the same and not worsen. But some people with MCI will go on to develop dementia.
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. This is why it’s important to talk to a GP sooner rather than later if you’re worried about memory problems or other symptoms.
Environmental And Social Variables
Anxiety has been associated with unmet needs in individuals with dementia living in residential care homes . The most common unmet needs in these individuals were lack of daytime activities, psychological distress, lack of company, and memory and communication problems. Anxiety has also been associated with greater dependency, problems in the patient-caregiver relationship and stressful life events . However, the association disappeared after depression was entered as an additional predictor. Overall, there is a paucity of research on the environmental and social variables associated with anxiety, and the existing results do not adequately address the role of depression as a potential confounding or mediating variable.
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Your Vision Is Patchy
Problems with spatial awareness can be caused by cataracts or glaucoma, but theyre also one of the early signs of dementia. This was the case with Chow, whose first Alzheimers symptoms were caused by a shrinkage of the area of the brain crucial to his ability to accurately perceive the world three-dimensionally.
A patient with posterior cortical atrophy may see the world in a patchy visual field, explains Hsiung. If the person is focusing in front while driving, he cant see things off to the side. And if hes changing lanes, he cant see other cars beside him. Meanwhile, when Chow made mistakes typing, he was having trouble seeing the whole keyboard.
Tartaglia notes that visual-spatial processing problems are especially prevalent as an early sign of Lewy body dementia, which can affect a similar area of the brain.
Who Is This Dementia Quiz For
Below is a list of 10 questions designed for people who are concerned about memory loss. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with dementia, a neurocognitive disorder, and are based on criteria in the DSM-5 .
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
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Difficulty Finding The Right Words
Another early symptom of dementia is struggling to communicate thoughts. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult, and it may take longer than usual to conclude.
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Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, nervousness, or fear. Everyone feels anxious sometimes, but feeling that way often or all the time can affect your health.
As many as 3 in 4 people with Alzheimerâs disease may have some level of anxiety. Itâs often one reason behind challenging behaviors like wandering and aggression.
People with Alzheimerâs disease may have trouble saying how they feel. You may not know when your loved one is worrying or feeling anxious. You might instead notice other signs, such as:
- Avoiding social situations
- Restless behaviors like wandering, doing the same thing over and over, or not staying still
- Muscle tension, even if theyâre not aware of feeling anxious
- Not sleeping well
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General Purpose Neuropsychiatric Instruments
The Empirical BEHAVE-AD is an extension of the BEHAVE-AD that does not rely on information provided by the caregiver. Rather, it consists of an informal interview with the patient alone, from which behavioral observations are used to score twelve items forming six domains. For the anxiety domain, two items are used: general anxieties and fear of being left alone. These two items have excellent interrater reliability , and the anxiety score of the E-BEHAVE-AD correlates moderately with that of the BEHAVE-AD. Unfortunately, correlations between different domains of the two measures were not reported in this study. Thus, similar to the relationship between the BEHAVE-AD and NPI, it is unclear whether the observed correlation is due to anxiety specifically or to a general factor such as overall distress or functioning.
Good interrater reliabilities for the anxiety domain have been reported for frequency and severity , while test-retest reliabilities range from .64 to .71 . As noted before, large correlations have been reported between the anxiety domains of the NPI and the BEHAVE-AD, but they provide little information about construct validity since the rate of overall neuropsychiatric symptoms was not controlled. Four factor analyses of the NPI have been conducted. In three of them , depression and anxiety loaded on the same factor, while in the last one , anxiety loaded equally on a depression/apathy factor and on a psychotic symptoms factor .
What Constitutes The Best Source Of Information To Assess Anxiety In Dementia
In the general population, the most common source of information to determine the presence of an anxiety disorder is the patient him- or herself. In dementia, this option may not always be optimal, as some patients have difficulty communicating and remembering their symptoms. To avoid these difficulties, some authors have chosen to rely exclusively on caregiver report. This strategy may work well for situations in which the core symptom is behavioral . In the case of GAD, however, the core symptoms of worrying and difficulty controlling the worry are private in nature, and caregivers might not be aware of them, particularly if the relationship between patient and caregiver is strained. Moreover, as we have seen, some of the outward manifestations of anxiety are highly confounded with symptoms of dementia. Thus, exclusive reliance on caregiver report may be the only choice when patients are too impaired to communicate effectively. In other cases, however, it would deprive the examiner of a valuable source of information.
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