New York: Feeling stressed out increases the chances of elderly people developing mild cognitive impairment - often a prelude to full-blown Alzheimer's disease, a study found.
Scientists found that highly stressed participants were more than twice as likely to become impaired than those who were not.
Because stress is treatable, the results suggest that detecting and treating stress in older people might help delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's.
The study looked at the connection between chronic stress and amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), the most common type of MCI, which is primarily characterized by memory loss.
"Our study provides strong evidence that perceived stress increases the likelihood that an older person will develop aMCI," said senior study author Richard Lipton from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
"Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, making it a potential target for treatment," Lipton said.
Many Alzheimer's patients first experience mild cognitive impairment - a pre-dementia condition that significantly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's in the following months or years.
"Perceived stress reflects the daily hassles we all experience, as well as the way we appraise and cope with these events," said study first author, Mindy Katz.
"Perceived stress can be altered by mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive-behavioural therapies and stress-reducing drugs. These interventions may postpone or even prevent an individual's cognitive decline," Katz added.
The researchers studied data collected from 507 people enrolled in the Einstein Ageing Study (EAS), a community-based cohort of older adults.
The findings were published online in Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders.