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Even one highly stressful experience early in life may have an impact on later brain health, according to experts led by a team from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
The study, which examined data from over 1,300 people who reported stressful experiences such as losing a job, experiencing a divorce, the loss of a child, or growing up with an abusive parent, revealed a direct relationship between the number of stressful events to poorer cognitive function in later life.
Dr. Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, stated to The Guardian: “We know that prolonged stress can have an impact on our health, so it’s no surprise that this study indicates stressful life events may also affect our memory and thinking abilities later in life. However, it remains to be established whether these stressful life events can lead to an increased risk of dementia.
“Studying the role of stress is complex. It is hard to separate from other conditions such as anxiety and depression, which are also thought to contribute towards dementia risk.
“However, the findings do indicate that more should be done to support people from disadvantaged communities that are more likely to experience stressful life events. As we improve our understanding of risk factors for dementia, it is increasingly important to establish the role that stress and stressful life events play.”