Neurotic Women May Have Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

nov25-1Around 5.2 million Americans have received diagnoses for Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable, progressive, and ultimately fatal illness. The most prevalent dementia type, it’s famous for stealing crucial memories. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that it also impairs language, focusing, decision-making, and visual perception abilities.

Swedish scientists discovered that women with neurotic personalities who also undergo prolonged stress during middle age might have twice the risk of Alzheimer’s disease developing in later life than those with more calm dispositions and lives. This research that the Neurology journal published is the first to show that one midlife personality style increases this dementia form’s likelihood over an extended 38-year study period. Luckily, neuroses, stress, and Alzheimer’s are treatable. Order discount medications for these and many other conditions from

Establishing the Connection

According to the study authors, neuroticism means suffering from distress easily and displaying jealous, anxious, or moody personality traits. People with these attributes have increased tendencies to be more emotional, struggle with lower self-esteem, and express long-term anger, envy, guilt, worry, and depression to fairly severe and relentless degrees. The researchers analyzed 800 women to determine if a link exists between middle-aged neuroticism and developing late-life Alzheimer’s disease. They began in 1968 when the middle-aged participants were between the ages of 38 and 54. Then they followed the same subjects for the next 38 years until they were seniors from 76 to 92 years old.

All women took personality and memory tests that assessed their neurotic levels and determined if they were introverted including reserved and shy, or extraverted as in outgoing. The investigators also asked the candidates if they’d experienced prolonged stress that lasted at least one month. They rated their constant stress levels for the prior five years on a scale of zero through five. Common stress responses were nervousness, fearfulness, irritability, sleep disturbances, and tension.

Being either an introvert or extrovert by itself didn’t affect dementia risks. But the researchers correlated greater neurotic levels with higher chances of Alzheimer’s disease occurrences. Women with high levels of both neuroticism and introversion with easy distress and withdrawal qualities at the beginning of the study had twice the Alzheimer’s disease risk of those with low neuroticism combined with high extroversion. The investigators also reviewed the women’s hospital records and neurological exam results to complete their final Alzheimer’s statistics. One-fourth of the high-risk women went on to develop the disease while just 13 percent of outgoing or extroverted participants who didn’t become upset easily became Alzheimer’s patients eventually.

Lena Johansson, this study’s author and a researcher at the University of Gothenburg’s Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, believes that her results also could be accurate for men. The data that came from research beginning during the 1960s included just women, despite men being the focus of most medical studies during that period. Many issues including high cholesterol and hypertension can lead to this multifactorial disease. Now, Johansson and her collaborators believe that personality-induced behaviors also may be contributing Alzheimer’s factors.

Explaining this Hazardous Combination

nov25-2Scientists aren’t clear why neuroticism, introversion, and stress are a dangerous mixture for women’s brains. Doctors know that personality can influence behaviors, lifestyles, and stress reactions, and all of these can affect overall health. So an obvious theory is that neurotic women are more apt to engage in unhealthy habits like excess smoking and drinking. But Johansson and her team offer another explanation. They believe that stress increases the cortisol hormone in neurotic women’s brains, which initiates changes that might damage their memory, cognition, and learning capacities.

Genetics propel personality styles and diseases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Dean Hartley, who wasn’t part of this study. But the medical community has limited knowledge about how personality types promote diseases. Hartley notes that the new study’s method involved researchers asking subjects about their stress after each five-year interval instead of measuring particular biochemical stress responses. Johansson contends that her long-term study addressed how stress and its consequences might instigate behavioral transformations that can increase Alzheimer’s disease risk factors.

This study supports previous research on how personality impacts dementia likelihood. In an earlier study, Johansson and her colleagues discovered that women who had endured significant midlife stressors had greater probability of developing dementia in later life. Other investigators associated neuroticism and stress with changes in the hippocampus, the brain structure that early Alzheimer’s affects. Research also has linked neuroticism to increased brain tangles, a known characteristic of this debilitating disease.

Embracing Preventative Efforts

Before you expect the worst to happen, know that having a neurotic personality doesn’t necessarily doom you to dementia. Johansson discovered that her neurotic study subjects who reported not feeling stress didn’t have higher Alzheimer’s risks. Keeping your life calm and handling any stressors well won’t raise your disease chances. Because long-term stress is dangerous, she advises taking care of symptoms like frequent or ongoing distress, irritation, and sleeping problems.

Dr. Galvin, an NYU Langone Medical Center professor, agrees that identifying modifiable aspects early may help reduce much later memory problems and Alzheimer’s other declining outcomes. The Calm Clinic recommends multiple methods. Physical activity is a stress reliever that releases mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain. Progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, and visualization are helpful. But just skipping stones on a lake or walking your dog also may reduce tension while encouraging tranquility and an upbeat attitude.