According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and about two-thirds of them are women.
Women and Alzheimer’s Disease
Heads up, ladies. A nearly 40-year-long study published in the Neurology journal suggests that introverted and easily distressed middle-aged women are more likely to develop dementia later in life. Scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden analyzed the behavior and memories of 800 women ages 38 to 54 and met with them six times throughout the 38-year study period.
Experts used the Eysenck Personality Inventory wherein the participants rated their levels of extroversion, introversion, neuroticism and stability. This inventory also measured a series of traits – from anxiety and low self-esteem to sleeping issues and recurring stomach aches. Aside from this, the experts also asked each participant the same question every meeting – “have you experienced any period of stress (one month or longer) in relation to circumstances in everyday life, such as work, health or family situation?
Out of 800, 19 percent or 153 of the participants developed dementia and 104 of those women were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The experts cannot directly point out the causes of Alzheimer’s disease however, the study found out that women in their 40s who showed highest levels of neuroticism, or a personality trait that is more likely to express anger, guilt, envy, anxiety or depression, were twice likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Based on the study, one-quarter of the women who showed introverted and neurotic behavior developed Alzheimer’s. Apparently, neuroticism was accompanied by long-time stress and remains to be the main risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
This study even corroborated with past researches that linked stress and onset of Alzheimer’s. Another study was presented at the 22nd Meeting of the European Neurological Society in Prague wherein researchers found out three-quarters of patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s reported having to cope with severe emotional stress before the study compared to one-quarter of the healthy ones.
The University of Gothenberg researchers need to conduct further studies to examine how long-term, everyday stress could influence the onset of Alzheimer’s. For now, their study is a good start to help doctors diagnose and treat this condition since a specific group is already identified.