Anxiety could be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, a new study has found.
The study indicated that there is a link between increased levels of amyloid beta and the worsening of anxiety symptoms. It supports the theory that neuropsychiatric symptoms could indicate the early development of Alzheimer's disease in older people.
A team of researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted the study, in which data of about 300 older people were analyzed. The scientists observed that the proteins linked with Alzheimer's were built in the brains of the people and they were more prone to anxiety.
It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease, which is a memory and brain degeneration condition, and the figures are only going to increase as the population ages.
Scientists are still not sure about the exact reason behind the mental disease. However, what they do know is that beta-amyloid, which are chemically sticky protein clumps attached to neurons, are a symptom of the condition.
The clumps, referred to as plaques, are said to interrupt brain signals that lead to memory loss and cognitive functions in Alzheimer's patients.
Link Between Anxiety And Alzheimer's Disease
Earlier studies have suggested that depression and other mental health changes might be signs of Alzheimer's before the memory starts to deteriorate. The new study, however, indicates that anxiety is the most closely related symptom.
The research team hopes that further study will bring about more information so that anxiety could become an early indicator to start observing patients for risk factors and early treatment of the disease.
The researchers, who published their study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, made a comparison of self-reports on 30 depression symptoms, including those linked to anxiousness, to brain scan images that showed protein plaque clusters.
The team analyzed alterations in both types of data for a span of five years and more to find that as harmful proteins clogged the brain more, anxiety also increased sharply than any other symptoms of depression.
"This suggests that anxiety symptoms could be a manifestation of Alzheimer's disease prior to the onset of cognitive impairment," said Dr. Nancy Donovan, the lead author of the study. 'If further research substantiates anxiety as an early indicator, it would be important for not only identifying people early on with the disease, but also, treating it and potentially slowing or preventing the disease process early on."