A recent study suggests that people with moderate to severe anxiety in middle age may be more likely to develop dementia as they get older. The study based its conclusions off of data from four previously published studies that tracked a total of 30,000 individuals over a 10-year period and clearly shows a link between living with anxiety in middle age and developing dementia later on in life.
The findings were published in the BMJ Open, a an online, open access journal, dedicated to publishing medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas. While the study was not a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how anxiety might directly contribute to the development of dementia, it is nonetheless shines light on how mental health is just as important as our physical health as we age.
One of the study’s senior authors believes that dementia may develop after anxiety during middle age because of the increase in and constant elevation of stress hormones may cause brain damages across regions associated with memory. However, that same author is unsure whether treating the underlying anxiety and reducing the levels of elevated hormones would end up reducing the risk of dementia in old age.
Furthermore, anxiety can be a symptom of dementia itself so it remains unclear whether the condition is an independent risk factor for the disease. Despite these uncertainties, anxiety and similar disorders need to be treated regardless of the risk they pose to developing cognitive impairments later on in life.
Anxiety can have a tremendous impact on life in the present and not just our future health. The condition can make it difficult for many people to live happy and productive lives as well as maintain relationships with friends and family. Anxiety can be a genetic issue or one brought on by drug use, including alcohol, caffeine, and benzodiazepines (which are often prescribed to treat anxiety), as well as withdrawal from drugs of abuse.
Whatever the cause, if someone is living with anxiety then he or she needs to seek help from a qualified medical professional. The effects of anxiety on the body can include lack of appetite or sex drive, muscle tension, headaches, and insomnia or even panic attacks. Common treatment options include lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy and can help patients improve their day to day lives and their mental health.