Last year, scientists revealed that stress increases production in mice of a brain peptide critical to Alzheimer's disease. Brand new research this week reported upon in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms this and adds another element of knowledge to the pool, specifically about brain chemicals that may be at work increasing the risk of the disease for those who live with stress.
Previous work that studied both humans and animals has suggested that stress may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but this new research is among the first to elaborate on the basic biomolecular mechanisms that may underlie this increased risk. Using mice genetically modified to model human Alzheimer's disease, the authors stressed these mice to the max, by isolating them in small cages -- not allowing them to move for three hours a day. This accelerated the brain plaques and declines in cognitive ability that go along with Alzheimers.
"There are very few known environmental risk factors for Alzheimer's disease," the main author notes. "Head trauma increases risk, higher education lowers it. Stress may be another environmental factor that increases risk."
This group of scientists (at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis) has shown that blocking a different brain peptide slows the stress-induced increase, potentially opening a new door to treatment. The work done by these scientists could later result in new drugs to help fend off the surge of damaging biochemicals that encourage Alzheimer's disease.
In the meantime, all we can do is to live without stress as best we can. This may include relaxation exercises, supplementation with adaptogenic herbs, or even through organizations such as The Art of Living Foundation, a program with the goal of international stress-relief.