Poverty & stress put people at greater risk of dementia - Alzheimer's experts

Poverty & stress put people at greater risk of dementia - Alzheimer's experts

Stressful events in life, including divorce or the death of a parent, can age the brain by several years, new research suggests.

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.

Efforts to cushion the blow of bereavement, abuse or other traumatic events could help to protect the brain, experts speculated. The group who experienced problems with their hearing were more likely to score significantly lower on cognitive tests and were roughly three times as likely to be assessed as having mild cognitive impairment. This is because they scored poorer results in the memory tests than other groups and also tended to live in poorer neighbourhoods.

Dr Doug Brown, the director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We know that prolonged stress can have an impact on our health, so it's no surprise that this study indicates stressful life events may also affect our memory and thinking abilities later in life". "Our findings suggest that differences in early life conditions may contribute to racial inequalities in dementia rate, and they point to growing evidence that early life conditions contribute to dementia risk in late life".

Findings of new studies that looked at racial disparities in patients with Alzheimer's disease have found evidence suggesting that social conditions such as stress of poverty and racism can increase risk of dementia in African Americans.

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Person-centred activities combined with just one hour a week of social interaction can improve the quality of life and reduce agitation for people with dementia living in care homes, while saving money, according to a recent study.

And Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'There's good United Kingdom data that supports the fact that diagnosis rates are really driven by socio-economic factors'. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, Irvine, found that racial disparities in the incidence of dementia that were previously found among people who are 65 years and older also appear in the very oldest demographic, people who are 90 or more.

"No one's looking at the same kind of things, but the research all dovetails really well", said Megan Zuelsdorff, an epidemiologist with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Keep your alcohol intake to a maximum of 14 units per week for men and women.

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