Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which is an umbrella term used to describe the loss of memory, thinking skills and other day-to-day functions such as cooking, gardening and cleaning.

It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today.  That number could rise to as high as 16 million in 2050.

Despite being identified in the early 20th century, we are still uncertain as to why some of us will develop Alzheimer’s while others will not.

A recent study conducted by the The American Journal of Psychiatry may shed some new light.

The study reported that symptoms of increasing anxiety may be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

This is big news.

A step towards prevention

The findings support the long held hypothesis that neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety could represent the early manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.

“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 author Nancy Donovan, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Amyloid beta is a protein that has been widely linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

It disrupts communication between neurons by building up in the brain in clumps forming plaques that ultimately leads to the cognitive impairment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers examined data from the Harvard Ageing Brain Study, a five-year observational study of 270 healthy men and women between ages 62 and 90 with no active psychiatric disorders.

Over the 5 years, the team found that higher levels of amyloid beta in the brain were associated with increasing anxiety symptoms in the cohort.

“This suggests that anxiety symptoms could be a manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease prior to the onset of cognitive impairment,” Donovan says.

“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.”

Since anxiety is common in baby boomers, rising anxiety symptoms may prove to be most useful as a risk marker.

At this point, the researchers caution that there’s still a lot we don’t know about how this association between anxiety and amyloid beta develops.  Therefore further longitudinal follow-ups will be required to verify whether participants showing escalating anxiety go on to develop Alzheimer’s as well.

Regardless, getting help with Anxiety now will not only lead to a more productive and meaningful present, it may save you or your loved one’s life in the future.

 A better way to combat anxiety

While there is no one size fits all solution, more and more people are seeking private, and more convenient assistance to relieve their stress. When you’re in an anxious state, finding a a professional to talk to can feel daunting.

You may be a candidate for online assistance if you prefer the following:

  1. You prefer convenience. Online support can be done from anywhere, at anytime. This can be helpful if you have a physical disability or live in a rural location. You want to be able go get help when you need it most.
  2. You want anonymity. Unfortunately, stigma surrounding mental health continues to persist, which may prevent anxiety sufferers from seeking help in the first place. Online help for anxiety offers a greater sense of privacy and safety.
  3. You want a paper trail. It can be challenging to remember what you discuss in a face to face therapy session. If you have anxiety, your mind is everywhere. Online support services that include emails and chat, allows you to easily refer back to anything discussed in your session.
  4. You desire affordability. Online help is often more affordable, taking away the added stress of high costs.   For example, the online solution Precipeace, offers an affordable monthly rate for unlimited assistance with a mental health professional that is typically less than the cost of a single visit to the therapist.