New York: Is your elderly grandfather showing higher levels of anxiety? Beware, it may signal the early manifestation of Alzheimer's disease, researchers warned.
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative condition that causes the decline of cognitive function and the inability to carry out daily life activities. The findings showed that worsening anxiety symptoms in older adults with may be associated with an increase in amyloid beta levels -- a key factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
"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," said lead author Nancy Donovan. a geriatric psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"This suggests that anxiety symptoms could Abe a manifestation of Alzheimer's disease prior to the onset of cognitive impairment" Donovan added. Previous studies have suggested depression and other neuropsychiatric symptoms as predictors of Alzheimer's disease progression during its "preclinical" phase -- the time during which brain deposits of fibrillar amyloid and pathological tau accumulate in a patient's brain.
This phase can occur more than a decade before a patient's onset of mild cognitive impairment, the researchers noted. The team examined the association of brain amyloid beta and longitudinal measures of depression and depressive symptoms in 270 cognitively normal, older adults between 62 and 90 years old, with no active psychiatric disorders. Their findings, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that higher brain amyloid beta burden was associated with increasing anxiety symptoms over time in cognitively normal older adults.
As anxiety is common in older people, rising anxiety symptoms may prove to be most useful as a risk marker in older adults with other genetic, biological or clinical indicators of high Alzheimer's risk. "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," Donovan said.