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Exploring the Link Between Stress and Dementia

Senior with dementia feeling stress over managing her medication

Stress can play a significant role in the health and wellness of any adult. Stress often occurs when the body is forced to respond to a situation that could be dangerous or difficult. Common symptoms are a pounding heart, sweaty palms and tense muscles. Prolonged, or chronic, stress has been shown to contribute to a person’s overall emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. But especially for seniors, there are concerns as to whether or not stress can contribute to memory issues, such as dementia.

The news often reports a link between stress and dementia, and it’s a logical conclusion because stress has been shown to affect the immune system. And as many studies have shown, the immune system plays an important role in the development of dementia. Particularly a specialized type of immune cell, called microglia, has been implicated as a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When it comes to analyzing stress and its impact on dementia, researchers have a hard time because all individuals experience stress in different ways. This individuality makes it challenging to study and measure the direct impact of stress. Since stress is often linked to other complications, it is especially difficult to develop any undeniable conclusions that would directly link stress with dementia.

That being said, a study funded by Alzheimer’s Society is currently working to find a tangible conclusion as to whether or not long-term stress could cause the progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to the point where it becomes Alzheimer’s disease. Preliminary findings have shown that stress does play a factor in MCIs and similar results have been found in individuals living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A couple of years ago, another study released by Oxford University, showed that women who had suffered significant stressors in mid-life were 65% more likely to develop dementia later on in life.

Ways for Seniors to Reduce Stress

Since there is no black and white answer on the impact of stress on dementia, it’s important to employ tactics to minimize stress in everyday life as a way to improve quality of life and minimize the risk of issues later on.

Below are some tips to help you take steps towards reducing the impact of stress:

  1. Remove yourself from stress-triggering events when possible
  2. Address stress-causing triggers in therapy or with a friend
  3. Establish realistic boundaries to protect your limits
  4. Create an environment around you that promotes relaxation
  5. Let go of the things you can’t control
  6. Take up relaxation practices including meditation, journaling, or yoga

Taking steps to reduce stress can play an important role in your overall health and wellness. So, it’s important to make lifestyle changes to help yourself now and well into the future.

Finding Memory Care and Support at Heritage Senior Living

At Heritage Senior Living, we understand that the need of every resident is unique. Our multi-disciplinary approach to memory care uses various activities and therapies to enrich the lives of residents and help them find the tools they need to thrive. We encourage residents to engage with the world around them and focus on strengths instead of limitations. Contact us today to learn more about our senior living options and to schedule a tour.