Does stress contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease and dementia? Increasingly, research indicates that the answer may very well be "yes." Kamran Shah reports that researchers at the University of Florida have discovered that stress causes the release of a specific hormone known as CRF (corticotrophin releasing factor). CRF, in turn, helps create a protein that is key to the formation of specific plaques in the brain. These plaques are a significant factor in the development of Alzheimer's.
Given this, managing stress is essential, especially in those people who may have a family history of Alzheimer's or dementia. Stress is, of course, an essential part of life--without some level of stress, it is highly unlikely many people would have the motivation to go to work or otherwise engage in productive activities--but too much stress can be damaging not only in the arena of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure but also in the area of cognitive health as well.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that may be done to manage stress. The following three methods of managing stress may be helpful, even as a person nears the elderly years.
One of the best things an elderly person--or any person, for that matter--may do in order to preserve their mental health and manage the harmful effects of stress is to engage in regular vigorous exercise. Elderly people or their caretakers may object to this statement, thinking that they (or their loved ones) have grown too old for intense exercise, but this is simply not the case: research has shown that even limited amounts of exercise, such as engaging in brisk walking or participating in a water aerobics class, can have ameliorative effects on the health of the subjects. This is true regardless of age.
An elderly person should not give up exercising simply because he or she has reached a certain age. On the contrary, as a person ages, he or she should emphasize engaging in regular exercise. While an elderly person may not feel physically able to run a marathon or engage in wind sprints, there are a myriad of other things that may be done in order to provide a good workout.
Walking briskly is one of the easiest--and most beneficial for the amount of wear-and-tear--exercises, and most elderly people can do this. Or perhaps the loved one in your life can engage in low-impact exercises such as water aerobics or bicycling.
Whatever the specific activity, the research is clear: exercise--at any age--is supremely beneficial.
Using meditation to manage stress is a technique that has been around for centuries. Provide your loved one with a "time-out" from his or her stressful day and a means to engage in therapeutic breathing, stretching, and so forth, for meditation represents an excellent way to manage stress and bring it down to a tolerable level.
Likewise, yoga has a number of stress-related benefits. The process of implementing various manners of breath control, stretches, low-impact exercise, and meditation is a time-honored way of reducing stress and managing its effects.
Unfortunately, the American culture is frequently guilty of being a tremendous source of stress because of the harried and full lives that many Americans feel are necessary. We fill our days with endless appointments, activities, and so on, and then feel stressed because we don't "have time" to relax.
Try encouraging your elderly loved one to slow down a bit. While it is very good to participate in activities in order to keep the mind engaged in retirement, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. (This holds true for younger people as well; Alzheimer's prevention via stress management should begin in young adulthood or middle-age).
While there is a strong link between stress levels and the development of Alzheimer's, there are things that you and your elderly loved one may do in order to manage and reduce stress. Consider making some changes today in order to improve your life (and the life of your loved one) tomorrow.
Shah, Kamran. (September 29, 2015). Alzheimer's Disease Linked to Stress: Research. Inquisitr. Available at http://www.inquisitr.com/2456606/alzheimers-disease-linked-to-stress-research/.
Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation. 4 Pillars of Prevention. Available at http://www.alzheimersprevention.org/4-pillars-of-prevention.