The findings of a new European study suggest that stress can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists working in Germany, Portugal and the UK determined that stress increases the production of amyloid beta peptide, the molecule associated with the build-up of plaque scientists believe causes the neurological disease.
They found that ingesting glucocorticoids (GC), which are produced as the body's first physiological response to stress, had the same effect.
Currently, GC are used in treatment programmes, which suggests doctors may have been unwittingly making their patients more ill.
Alzheimer's patients were already known to have higher than average anxiety and GC levels.
In tests on rodents, those exposed to stressful situations or receiving GC were much more anxious than controls. They were also less exploratory and had an impaired spatial memory.
The scientists hope that their research can be used to develop the existing therapeutic approaches to Alzheimer's.
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