A new study out of Boston, US, has found that as well as conditions like depression, anxiety-based symptoms could be a sign of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the World Health Organization, each year 25% of the population suffer from depression or anxiety, with up to 50% of chronic sick leave related to the illness.
Geriatric psychiatrist from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US, Nancy Donovan said: “When compared to other symptoms of depression such as sadness or loss of interest, anxiety symptoms increased over time in those with higher amyloid beta levels in the brain.”
The significance of amyloid beta
Amyloid beta is a protein that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, which builds up in the brain and forms plaques, resulting in the disruption in communication between neurons.
This disruption is believed to be one of the reasons behind the cognitive impairment of the disease and can show evidence of the condition ten years before memory decline is diagnosed.
Donovan and fellow researchers looked at data from the five-year Harvard Aging Brain Study, which revealed that participants without any known psychiatric disorder, who were tested yearly for depression, had higher levels of amyloid beta in the brain.
Will it help prevent Alzheimer’s?
Donovan explained: “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.
“This is not a definitive result, but it does strengthen the argument that neuropsychiatric changes might be associated with this amyloid.”
The findings were discussed in The American Journal of Psychiatry.