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Stressful events 'speed up brain's ageing by several years'
17 July 2017, 06:56 | Erica Roy
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Four new studies found evidence suggesting that stress of poverty and racism are factors that can increase risk of dementia in African Americans.
Researchers examined data of 1,320 people who reported stressful experiences over their lifetime and underwent tests in areas such as thinking and memory.
And a third study of almost 1,500 people by another group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin found "markedly worse" cognitive performance, based on tasks such as verbal learning, immediate memory and speed and flexibility of cognition, in people from the most disadvantages neighbourhoods.
Rates of stress were found to be 60 per cent higher among African Americans and these events predicted cognitive abilities even more than traditional risk factors such as age, education and genetics. According to NPR, four studies presented at an worldwide conference in London Sunday all presented evidence linking poverty, disadvantage, and stressful life events to cognitive issues among aging African Americans.
Stressful life experiences included things such as losing a job, the death of a child, divorce or growing up with a parent, who abused alcohol or drugs. Compared with oldest-old Asian Americans and Whites, dementia incidence was highest among African Americans and Latinos - which reflected the same pattern of racial disparity observed for the younger elderly. The findings back up earlier studies that link stress and changes in the brain.
"However, it remains to be established whether these stressful life events can lead to an increased risk of dementia". It is hard to separate from other conditions such as anxiety and depression, which are also thought to contribute towards dementia risk.
"These findings support the need for targeted interventions, whether preventive or service-driven, to help address the gaps we know exist - and for more research", says Carrillo. "As we improve our understanding of risk factors for dementia, it is increasingly important to establish the role that stress and stressful life events play".
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