Stress link to Alzheimer's risk

Adverse life events could be a trigger for Alzheimer's disease, new research has shown. Investigators at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal, found that stress can serve to accelerate the development of the condition.

The scientists discovered certain hormones are released during stress, with increased hyperphosphorylation of tau protein in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

Osborne Almeida, from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, said: "Our findings show that stress hormones and stress can cause changes in the tau protein like those that arise in Alzheimer's disease."

The representative noted considering stress as a trigger of the condition could lead to exciting research possibilities aimed at preventing its onset.

Chartered Psychologist Cath Burley said: "Alzheimer's disease, like many medical and neurological conditions, would be unusual if it was not exacerbated by stress.

"This research is interesting because it pinpoints the connection between stress hormones and tau protein and furthers our knowledge of how the brain works.

"It also will help people to take a more proactive approach to management of their physical and mental health.

"Physical and mental exercise, a balanced lifestyle and a good diet all contribute to reducing the risk of some types of dementia and other illnesses.

"Adverse life events happen to everyone and cannot be avoided, only managed.

"However, it is how they are managed that differs from individual to individual and here psychological approaches can help people to learn to manage their stress better at all points in their lives."

A recent campaign from mental health charity Mind - entitled Taking Care of Business - highlighted the fact that many workers are worried they could face the sack if they admitted to feeling stressed in the workplace.