Mid-Life Stresses May Be Tied to Late-Life Dementia Risk

MONDAY, April 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Anxiety during middle age might signal impending dementia, a new analysis suggests.

Although millions of Americans suffer from moderate to severe anxiety, it’s not clear how it is linked to dementia or if treatment could nullify the risk, British researchers say.

“We investigated anxiety levels that are significant enough to warrant being clinically diagnosed with anxiety, rather than just exhibiting some symptoms of anxiety,” said senior researcher Natalie Marchant. She’s an assistant professor at the University College London’s division of psychiatry.

To look for a possible connection between anxiety and dementia, Marchant’s team pooled data from four previously published studies that included a total of nearly 30,000 people.

The weakness of this type of study, called a meta-analysis, is that it can’t account for the quality of the studies included, or the strength of common threads the researchers find.

Although the reason for the potential association between anxiety and dementia isn’t known, and this study did not prove that one causes the other, Marchant thinks a biological explanation is possible.

“Anxiety is linked to an abnormal response to stress on a biological level,” she said. “And there is increasing interest in the influence of stress and inflammation on brain cells in the development of dementia.”

An abnormal stress response may speed brain cell aging and breakdowns in the central nervous system, thereby increasing vulnerability to dementia, the study authors suggested.

Although it might be that anxiety leads people to engage in unhealthy behaviors, the studies the researchers examined accounted for lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol use, so these factors are unlikely to explain the relationship, Merchant added.

“Given the long time interval between the assessment of anxiety and the diagnosis of dementia — on average greater than 10 years — the findings from our review indicate that moderate to severe anxiety may be a potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia,” she explained.

If anxiety is a risk factor for dementia, this has implications for being able to better identify people at risk and to intervene early to reduce the risk, Marchant said.

But it’s not clear if treatment could curb this risk or whether non-drug therapies — such as mindfulness and meditation — which are known to reduce anxiety, might help.

“Therapies already exist to reduce anxiety, for example talking therapies and mindfulness interventions, so the next step is to study whether these therapies could also reduce risk for dementia,” Merchant said.

A lot remains unknown about the relationship between anxiety and depression and dementia, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“There is a well-known link between depression as a risk factor for dementia,” Fargo said.

While depression might be a cause of dementia, he noted, it’s just as likely that it is an early sign of dementia.

Fargo agreed that it’s not known if treating anxiety or depression with drugs or non-drug therapies could slow or prevent dementia.

But treating depression or anxiety is still a good idea, he said. “Certainly, there is very little downside to having your anxiety and depression treated, and there may be potential upsides,” he says.”

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Lewy Body Dementia Association Announces 24 Research Centers of Excellence

ATLANTAApril 3, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA), the leading advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness and advancing research about Lewy body dementia (LBD), announced today the launch of the LBDA Research Centers of Excellence (RCOE). This collaboration features 24 preeminent academic medical research centers across the United States, coordinated by Mayo Clinic.

The LBDA RCOE program will provide a centralized, coordinated research resource, supporting an expanded effort in conducting clinical trials related to LBD while helping to provide expert clinical care for patients, families and caregivers.                  

“Successful clinical trials are the holy grail for all the stakeholders in the Lewy body dementia treatment community, so the goal of the Research Centers of Excellence program is to benefit patients with the disease,” said Dr. Bradley Boeve, Mayo Clinic’s LBDA RCOE lead primary investigator. “Lewy body dementia is chronically underdiagnosed, so we seek to address a decades-old challenge of finding and enrolling enough correctly diagnosed patients, working with clinicians and staff who understand the disease, and reaching the right patients and families to encourage participation in clinical trials. Now we can address all three. The centers involved in the program are working together with a common goal to improve the understanding of the disease in the scientific, medical and general public communities.”

LBDA’s RCOE program aims to establish a clinical trials-ready network of leading institutions that share the common vision of providing the highest level of clinical care over the course of LBD treatment. In addition, the RCOE network seeks to increase access to support for caregivers and people living with LBD, increase the knowledge of LBD among the medical community, and construct administrative infrastructure and generate the resources necessary to further advance LBD research and care.

“Clinical trials with a patient population like LBD’s require experienced diagnosticians to ensure accurate patient participation,” said Mike Koehler, Chief Executive Officer of LBDA. “This network can share a standardized approach to patient recruitment and data collection for clinical trials. That is why we are so grateful to have the expertise of 24 preeminent academic and medical research centers, coordinated by Mayo Clinic, one of the most prolific clinical research organizations in the US, comprising the LBDA RCOE.

“In addition to establishing the RCOE program, LBDA takes a major step forward launching a competitive research initiative via the RCOE. Fertilizing the LBD infrastructure will allow us to further our understanding of this disease and develop new ways care and support of the patients, families and caregivers. In addition to supporting those living with LBD, the Association’s mission has always been to add to the scientific body of understanding about the disease to give hope to those living with it.”

Lewy body. Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease

About LBDA’s RCOE Network
The 24 RCOEs are spread across 17 states and the District of Columbia and are located in 23 American metropolitan areas. Each RCOE is led by recognized primary investigators (PIs) and co-investigators to conduct trials and provide expert care. A full listing of RCOE institutions is available on LBDA’s website at https://www.lbda.org/rcoecenters.

The centers were chosen for their clinical expertise in LBD, experience running clinical trials in related conditions (combined, the 33 PIs have run 380 clinical trials in the past 5 years), their facility’s capacity and willingness to participate, and their geographic locations.

More information on the LBDA RCOE program can be found on LBDA’s website at https://www.lbda.org/rcoe.

Driving Clinical Trials
The RCOE will collaborate on industry-sponsored clinical trials and apply for federal funding for LBD research initiatives. As our program evolves LBDA hopes to fund our own clinical research initiatives as we move forward.

For more information about LBDA, the LBDA RCOE network, or LBD, please contact Mike Koehler at mkoehler@lbda.orgor 215.822.3622.

About Lewy Body Dementia Association
The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization in raising awareness of Lewy body dementias (LBD), supporting patients, their families and caregivers, and promoting scientific advances. LBD is a progressive brain disease that affects thinking, movement, behavior, and impacts 1.4 million people in the United States. Visit www.lbda.org.

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