Stressful life experiences can age the brain by several years, new research suggests. For African-Americans, who were found 60% more likely to experience stressful events, the brain aged four years with each instance.
New studies looking at how social conditions may affect risk of dementia found that living in stressful circumstances hits one group hardest: African Americans.
"We presented research that actually tells us that African Americans-even into their 90's-are still one-and-a-half times more at risk than their counterparts and additionally, this may be attributable to living in disadvantaged neighborhoods or increased stressful life experiences", Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer at the Alzheimer's Association (ALZ) tells FOX Business.
The new research, presented at a conference in London on Sunday, looks at how stress and dementia are related, with the results helping account for higher incidents of such degenerative diseases among African Americans in the United States, who are nearly twice as likely to suffer from the disease over the age of 65.
"We've always known [stress] is not good for your brain, but now we are seeing that stressful situations even early in life are critical in addressing brain health".
During the period that the research focused on ‒ between 1964 and 1973 ‒ the infant mortality rate of black people was almost twice as high as that of whites.
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According to the results, African Americans born in states with the highest levels of infant mortality had a 40 per cent higher risk of dementia compared to African American from other states.
This is the first study to look at racial disparity in the risk of incident dementia among this older population.
"These studies were done with USA data, but they add weight to the global body of evidence around disadvantage and dementia risk, which is an issue government around the world grapple with, and one that requires coordinated action", Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer's Association chief science officer, said in a statement. "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".
Researchers at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto also issued a warning earlier this year that people need to reduce any chronic stress and anxiety in their lives, or they risk increasing their chances of developing dementia.
The findings back up earlier studies that link stress and changes in the brain.