Stressful life experiences 'can age brain by years'


In four different studies presented at the Alzheimer's Association's annual conference in London on Sunday, July 16, researchers found that the conditions that have disproportionate impact on blacks such as poor living conditions and potentially disruptive events, which include divorce of parents, chronic unemployment, and loss of sibling, may have severe effect on their brain health later in life.

On average, African Americans experience 60 percent more stressful events than whites over the course of a lifetime, the study found.

Researchers from Wisconsin University in the U.S. also found that African American experienced 60 per cent more stressful events than white people during their lifetimes.

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.

Experts in the USA found that even one major stressful event early in life may have an impact on later brain health.

During the period that the research focused on ‒ between 1964 and 1973 ‒ the infant mortality rate of black people was almost twice as high as that of whites.

"For a racially diverse nation like the United States, and to address Alzheimer's and dementia on a global scale, these findings support the need for targeted interventions, whether preventive or service-driven, to help address the gaps we know exist - and for more research".

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A second study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente Division of Research made similar conclusions linking African Americans with a higher risk of dementia later in life. African Americans were 40% more likely to develop dementia in these states, while other groups' risk wasn't linked to place of birth.

In their case, each stressful event was equivalent to approximately four years of cognitive ageing.

Those who said they had experienced more serious problems did worse in cognitive tests.

Experts have linked factors such as limited access to healthy food, low levels of education and pollution to the health of the brain, noting those who reside in wealthier areas are less at risk of dementia than people living in less well-off locations.

Using data from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention Study, Zuelsdorff and her colleagues examined the role of profound stress on the cognitive function of 1,320 people, of whom 82 were black.

These findings aren't the first to link stress in life to an increased risk of dementia in old age.

"It is hard to separate from other conditions such as anxiety and depression, which are also thought to contribute towards dementia risk".