Anxiety and Dementia
By Letha Sgritta McDowell, CELA
When experiencing anxiety or stress, the body produces the hormone cortisol and prolonged heightened cortisol levels have been linked to weight gain, lower immune function, lower bone density, higher rates of mental illness and depression, higher rates of heart disease and more. It is possible that dementia is another possible side effect of prolonged increased cortisol levels. On the other hand, anxiety is often a symptom of dementia, making the corollary between the two difficult to connect.
Therapy exists to assist individuals with the reduction of anxiety and cortisol levels. For individuals who live with high stress and anxiety, pursuing therapy to reduce these levels is critical due to the host of other health problems which may result. The possibility of reducing the chances of developing dementia later in life is simply an added bonus to reducing stress.
While there is no way of eliminating the chances of developing dementia, there are some things one can do to aid in prevention. Reducing stress is one and maintaining heart health through diet and exercise is another. The Alzheimer’s Association also recommends education and regularly getting the right amount of sleep as another.
How do you recognize dementia? The Alzheimer’s Association has provided 10 signs of dementia which, if you notice any one of them in yourself or a loved one, warrants a visit to a physician for further testing. They are:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life – This includes forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events, or repeatedly asking for the same information. This does not include occasionally forgetting a name or an appointment, then remembering later.
- Challenges in planning or problem solving – This includes difficulty with following a familiar recipe or keeping track of bills but would not encompass the occasional math error or learning a new task.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or work.
- Confusion with time or place – While it is common for many to occasionally forget what day it is but then remember later, it is not common to forget and not remember at all.
- Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships. This includes trouble judging distances or determining color contrasts.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing – Examples of this are trouble in following a conversation or having trouble finding the right word for something and calling it by the incorrect name.
- Misplacing things – While everyone misplaces their keys on occasion, a person with dementia may place their keys in an inappropriate location (such as the freezer) then later be unable to find them and not have the ability to retrace their steps.
- Decreased or poor judgement – This is difficult to ascertain, but is unfortunate and an often missed early sign. Decreased judgment is often what leads individuals to take action such as gifting sums of money when they otherwise would not do so.
- Withdrawal from social activities – This is often as result of having difficulty in following a certain activity or being able to engage in conversation.
- Changes in mood or personality – Different from simply becoming irritable when a routine is changed, a person with dementia may become easily upset, afraid, depressed or fearful, even when in a familiar setting.
Studies now show a link between anxiety and developing dementia. While the strength and nature of this connection remains unknown, it is certainly cause to take steps to reduce stress and anxiety now. To the extent any preventative measure can be taken, it is critical to implement. For those who have prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety; be sure to know the early warning signs of dementia and pursue treatment in order to improve overall quality of life.
Ask Kit Kat – Virginia Honeybees
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, is it true the Virginia honeybee population was reduced by half after this past winter?
Kit Kat: Yes, unfortunately, it was closer to 60% that was lost. This was the highest reduction of managed colonies of honeybees since the Commonwealth of Virginia started tracking them in 2000. Normally, only 30% are lost over the winter period. It could be devastating for the state’s agriculture, because honeybees are critical to pollinating crops, and wild bees perform the same function in wild areas such as wetlands and forests. Honeybees are responsible for about 90% of the pollination of apples, cranberries, broccoli, and blueberries. They are also essential for pollinating almonds, to name just a few of the crops which they pollinate. According to Keith Tignor, apiarist for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Virginia was 4th in the nation for loss of bees, with only Arizona, Tennessee, and Louisiana losing more. The phenomenon is known as “colony collapse.” Scientists have not yet figured out why this is happening. They have some ideas, however.
According to Margaret Couvillon, assistant professor of pollinator biology and ecology at Virginia Tech, the four stressors for bees are known as “the four P’s—pesticides, pathogens, pests, and poor nutrition.” Contributing factors this year were an unusually long winter and a brief warm-up in February which tricked them into thinking spring had come. Also, the bees battled parasitic Varroa mites and infections from nosema fungi. Furthermore, they have had to deal with a loss of habitat, as more and more woodlands are converted to farming nationwide. Finally, it is becoming harder to make a living as a full-time beekeeper. Therefore, fewer people undertake the task, thus reducing the number of bees, because there are fewer active agents revitalizing their numbers each year after a cold winter.
What can you do to help the situation? 1) Become a beekeeper, or expand the number of hives you have, if you already keep bees, 2) plant flowers; even if you live in an apartment, you can plant in pots, 3) monitor your bees if you are a beekeeper for mites, especially in July and August, and 4) seek advice from state extension agents before applying any pesticides. (Katherine Hafner, “Over half of Virginia’s honeybees died last winter. Here’s what that means.” The Virginian-Pilot, pg. 1 and 7, July 9, 2018)
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