Mild cognitive impairment patients with anxiety face faster Alzheimer’s disease progression: Study

By: Devon Andre | Alzheimers | Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 01:00 PM

Mild cognitive impairment patients with anxiety face faster Alzheimer’s disease progression: StudyMild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients with anxiety face faster Alzheimer’s disease progression. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease in mild cognitive impairment patients with mild, moderate, and severe anxiety was found to increase by 33, 78, and 135 percent, respectively.

The researchers also found that mild cognitive impairment patients who reported anxiety at any time during the follow-up period of the study had greater rates of atrophy in the medial temporal lobe region, an essential part of the brain responsible for creating memories that is often affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

Anxiety as a symptom of the MCI progression to Alzheimer’s disease has never been isolated in research, and this is one of the first studies to explore the detrimental effects of anxiety in Alzheimer’s disease. Numerous studies explored the link between depression and Alzheimer’s disease progression.

Principal investigator of the study Dr. Linda Mah said, “Our findings suggest that clinicians should routinely screen for anxiety in people who have memory problems because anxiety signals that these people are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s. While there is no published evidence to demonstrate whether drug treatments used in psychiatry for treating anxiety would be helpful in managing anxiety symptoms in people with mild cognitive impairment or in reducing their risk of conversion to Alzheimer’s, we think that at the very least behavioral stress management programs could be recommended. In particular, there has been research on the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction in treating anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer’s and this is showing promise.”

The researchers analyzed anxiety, depression, and cognitive and brain structural changes in 376 adults over the course of three years. These changes were assessed every six months. All participants had diagnosed MCI with low scores on the depression scale, which indicated that anxiety was not part of depression.

MCI is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease progression. Many MCI patients go undiagnosed until their condition progresses to Alzheimer’s.

The study found anxiety to be a predictive factor for Alzheimer’s disease in a patient with MCI.

Tips to help prevent anxiety in seniors

There are numerous causes for anxiety in seniors, including changes in location, environment, or caregivers, misperceived threats, fear, and fatigue. In order to calm agitation and prevent anxiety among seniors, especially those with memory troubles, follow some of the below tips.

  • Create a calm environment
  • Try to keep the patient on a regular routine
  • Monitor the patient’s personal comfort such as hunger or tiredness
  • Simplify tasks and routines
  • Have the patient move around and get some exercise
  • Listen to the patient’s frustrations
  • Provide reassurance
  • Involve the patient in activities
  • Have the patient checked for other medical conditions that can contribute to anxiety
  • Check medications’ side effects
  • Work closely with the patient’s doctor

By following some of these tips, you can have greater success in managing and preventing anxiety in the senior patients’ life.

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