There is a growing body of clinical evidence connecting Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to a significantly increased risk of developing dementia later in life. According to University of Southern California researchers, people who experience periods of high anxiety in their lives have a 48 percent higher risk of developing dementia later in life. As Cincinnati senior care professionals learned, the connection between anxiety and dementia may lie in how anxiety impacts the brain.
Anxiety Impacts Brain Function
Chemistry is the basis of brain function and communication. Information from the body and its environment is transmitted to the brain via a multitude of chemical processes. The chemical interactions and reactions taking place in the brain regulate the body’s systems and functions, sending messages throughout the body in response to stimuli and to initiate voluntary actions. Chemical processes are the essence of cognition itself, the source conscious thought and emotion.
Different thoughts and emotions produce different chemical actions in the brain. Stress and anxiety flood the brain with stress hormones, including cortisol. This process is the basis of the fight or flight response. Over time, continuously high levels of cortisol can damage to the hippocampus, the site of important memory functions, and the frontal cortex, where the brain’s higher-order thinking takes place. The damage to those parts of the brain may leave the brain more vulnerable to dementia.
If GAD or chronic stress is a problem, be proactive in learning how to better manage it. Common treatments for these conditions include cognitive therapy, diet, exercise, yoga, and meditation. Reduce age-related dementia risk by engaging in activities that give the brain a good work-out, such as playing musical instruments, learning a foreign language, and doing word or number puzzles. Staying socially active and interacting with people of all age groups also helps keep the brain healthy.
If your senior relative has recently been diagnosed with dementia and you’re unsure what the future holds, turn to Home Care Assistance. As a trusted provider of Cincinnati dementia care, we offer support to families just like yours through each stage of the condition. Our caregivers provide safety monitoring, run errands, and offer companionship, ensuring the safety, comfort, and wellbeing of seniors in the familiar surroundings of home. To learn more, please call 513.891.2273 and speak with a dedicated Care Manager today.