Alzheimer’s disease is a condition where a person gradually loses his/her memory. In later stages, patients cannot even remember how to eat or drink and become completely dependent on their caretakers. Family members usually have to get the services of a hospital full time which costs millions.
Alzheimer is not a rare condition. According to a 2017 report, more than 44 million people worldwide had Alzheimer and experts still argue that this number is understated. The reason (why they argue) is that Alzheimer’s is an under-diagnosed condition. Only one in four patients with the condition gets proper diagnoses. Hence, a complete and accurate calculation of the patients’ number is questionable.
In Pakistan, there is no proper study available on Alzheimer’s disease. The president of Pakistan’s Neurology Society painted an alarming picture in a recent press release. It was revealed that around 0.2 million people in Pakistan are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This figure is based on extrapolation and shows that by 2050, people who are now in the age bracket of 15-24 will be suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s has no cure, but an early diagnosis can help in managing it in a better way. Some recent studies have linked anxiety disorders with Alzheimer’s. Anxiety can thus be a possible warning sign of Alzheimer’s.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
They are a group of mental illnesses that instigate feelings of nervousness. Some common anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias. They disturb general functioning and also decrease the quality of life.
General anxiety requires urgent attention as it can lead to other mental disorders.
Some common symptoms include sudden chest pains that do not have any physical reason. Sweating and vomiting in stressful situations is also experienced. Irritability, insomnia and muscle tension is very common among patients. They are also likely to feel exhausted, fatigued and lack concentration.
The Link between Alzheimer’s and Anxiety
A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has revealed a link between anxiety disorders and Alzheimer’s. The actual cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown. Research has shown that a protein named beta-amyloid may be a key factor.
Beta-amyloid is the protein that causes the accumulation of plaque between nerves. This plaque blocks communication between cells which results in memory loss. This study has shown that people with anxiety also have high levels of beta-amyloid. This has led to the conclusion that anxiety leads to the production of beta-amyloid. The conclusion thus is that anxiety causes Alzheimer’s.
The suggestion that anxiety causes Alzheimer’s is not based only on a single study. Another study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry also gives similar evidence. According to this study, anxiety is a precursor of both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Treating the Symptom May Help
Alzheimer’s is incurable once it has already developed. With this new research, it seems that a delay might be possible. In the past, it was not possible to stop or delay the disease because there were no early signs. If anxiety is a possible early symptom then intervention is possible.
The study published in the American Journal followed up some participants for five years. The results show that people with heightened anxiety also present increased beta-amyloid. The researchers thus concluded that controlling anxiety can help control Alzheimer’s too.
If there is a link between beta-amyloid and anxiety, then it is controllable. The reason is that anxiety is quite manageable through medicines and therapy.
Alzheimer’s disease is a horrific experience for both the patient and the people around him/her. The new link between the two conditions has opened a new window. It is a ray of hope regarding the prevention of such a horrid disease. Therefore, if you or loved ones have some symptoms of anxiety, do not hesitate to find a psychiatrist nearby and seek his advice. Any negligence on the part of the patient or family can lead to serious healthcare and life problems.