Stress in midlife affects cognitive decline later in life

  • A large long-running study found that stressful life experiences (but not traumatic events) during middle-age were associated with greater memory decline in later life — but only for women.
  • A large long-running study found that middle-aged adults with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol had poorer cognition than those with average cortisol levels, and this was also associated with greater brain atrophy.
  • A study found that older adults (65-95) who responded to stressful events with more negative emotions showed greater fluctuations in cognitive performance.

Stressors in middle age linked to cognitive decline in older women

Data from some 900 older adults has linked stressful life experiences among middle-aged women, but not men, to greater memory decline in later life.

Previous research has found that the effect of age on the stress response is three times greater in women than in men.

Having a greater number of stressful life experiences over the last year in midlife in women was linked to a greater decline in recalling words later and recognizing those words. There was no association, however, to traumatic events — suggesting that ongoing stress has more of a negative effect on cognition.

The data came from 909 Baltimore residents participating in the National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, begun in 1981. Participants were an average age of 47 during their mid-life check-in in the 90s.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/jhm-im080219.php

https://www.futurity.org/mid-life-stress-women-memory-alzheimers-2127072-2/

Stress hormone linked to impaired memory, smaller brain in middle age

Data from 2,231 participants (mean age 48.5) in the Framingham Heart Study has found that adults in their 40s and 50s with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol had poorer cognition than those with average cortisol levels. Higher cortisol was also associated with smaller brain volumes.

There was no association between higher cortisol level and APOE genotype.

Age, sex, smoking and body mass index were taken into account in the analysis.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/uoth-sci102418.php

Response to daily stressors could affect brain health in older adults

A study following 111 older adults (65-95) for 2½ years, has found that those who responded to stressful events with more negative emotions and reported a more dour mood in general showed greater fluctuations in their performance on cognitive tests.

Cognitive testing occurred every six months, for six days over a two-week period.

Stressful events and emotional reactions were assessed by self-report.

Interestingly, there were age differences. For the oldest participants (late 70s and older), being more reactive to stressors than usual contributed to worse cognitive performance, but those in their late 60s to mid-70s actually did better on the test if they reported more stressors.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/osu-rtd111918.php

Reference: 

Munro, C. A., Wennberg, A. M., Bienko, N., Eaton, W. W., Lyketsos, C. G., & Spira, A. P. (2019). Stressful life events and cognitive decline: Sex differences in the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area Follow-Up Study. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(7), 1008–1017. https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5102

[4483] Echouffo-Tcheugui, J. B., Conner S. C., Himali J. J., Maillard P., DeCarli C. S., Beiser A. S., et al.
(2018).  Circulating cortisol and cognitive and structural brain measures.
Neurology. 91(21), e1961.

[4482] Stawski, R., Cerino E., Witzel D., & MacDonald S\.
(Submitted).  Daily Stress Processes as Contributors to and Targets for Promoting Cognitive Health in Later Life.
Psychosomatic Medicine. 81(1), 81 - 89.

Related News

A study involving 218 participants aged 18-88 has looked at the effects of age on the brain activity of participants viewing an edited version of a 1961 Hitchcock TV episode (given that participants viewed the movie while in a MRI machine, the 25 minute episode was condensed to 8 minutes).

A study involving 100 healthy older adults (aged 60-80) has found that those with higher levels of physical activity showed more variable spontaneous brain activity in certain brain regions (including the

A ten-year study involving 2,092 older adults (average age 76) has found that people tended to lose awareness of memory problems two to three years before the onset of dementia.

A large, five-year study challenges the idea that omega-3 fatty acids can slow age-related cognitive decline.

A large, two-year study challenges the evidence that regular exercise helps prevent age-related cognitive decline.

A study involving 97 healthy older adults (65-89) has found that those with the “Alzheimer’s gene” (APOe4) who didn’t engage in much physical activity showed a decrease in hippocampal volume (3%) over 18 months.

An Indian study involving 648 dementia patients, of whom 391 were bilingual, has found that, overall, bilingual patients developed dementia 4.5 years later than the monolingual ones. There was no additional advantage to speaking more than two languages.

A study, involving 371 patients with mild cognitive impairment, has found that those with depressive symptoms had higher levels of amyloid-beta, particularly in the frontal cortex and the anterior and posterior

A study involving 206 spousal and adult children caregivers of dementia sufferers (mostly Alzheimer’s) has found that about 84% of caregivers reported a clinically significant burden. Three factors were significant contributors to the burden:

A study involving 254 people with dementia living at home has found that 99% of people with dementia and 97% of their caregivers had one or more unmet needs, 90% of which were safety-related.

Pages

Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health newsSubscribe to Latest news