Chronic anxiety in adulthood might be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have found.
In previous studies, researchers have found that depression could also be labeled as an indicator of the neurodegenerative disease in its pre-clinical phase.
“Past studies have suggested depression and other neuropsychiatric symptoms may be predictors of AD’s progression during its “preclinical” phase, during which time brain deposits of fibrillar amyloid and pathological tau accumulate in a patient’s brain. This phase can occur more than a decade before a patient’s onset of mild cognitive impairment,” researchers stated in a release.
According to the findings, however, excessive anxiety may be associated with elevated levels of amyloid beta, a microscopic brain protein fragment used as an indicator of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers examined 270 participants, aged 62 to 90, all cognitively healthy and with no active psychiatric disorders. Participants underwent brain imaging scans and received annual assessments with the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) utilized to spot depression. The results of the assessments were then utilized to measure three traits of depression: apathy-anhedonia, dysphoria, and anxiety.
Based on the results, participants with increased levels of beta-amyloid showed greater symptoms of anxiety over time. Researchers concluded that individuals with depressive-anxiety symptoms that worsen as they age may be at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
“The results suggest that worsening anxious-depressive symptoms may be an early predictor of elevated amyloid beta levels – and, in turn AD — and provide support for the hypothesis that emerging neuropsychiatric symptoms represent an early manifestation of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.”
The findings were published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.