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A review of research has confirmed that too much stress can lead to dementia.

Scientists have warned that people who suffer from chronic stress and anxiety are more likely to develop dementia when they’re older. The news came after a review of studies carried out at the University of Toronto and published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry.

While occasional bouts of stress, linked to events such as taking a test or feeling nervous about a job interview, are unlikely to have a lasting effect, if stress and anxiety becomes a long-term problem, it can be quite damaging.

Dr Linda Mah, the lead author of the review, said:

‘Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.’

Essentially, this means that stress affects the physical workings of the brain, causing it to gradually degenerate, which can lead to dementia. However, Dr Mah believes this type of stress-induced damage to the brain is “not completely irreversible”, and that treatment with anti-depressant drugs and physical activity have been found to boost regeneration.

‘Looking to the future, we need to do more work to determine whether interventions, such as exercise, mindfulness training and cognitive behavioural therapy, can not only reduce stress but decrease the risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders,’ said Dr Mah.

Click here for more information on the effect that stress and anxiety can have on memory.