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Cortisol Implicated in Alzheimer Disease Progression

Higher blood levels associated with increased symptoms, decreased cognitive function scores

FRIDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with Alzheimer-type dementia, increased plasma cortisol levels, a marker of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, are associated with more rapid disease progression, according to a study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

John G. Csernansky, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues conducted annual assessments for up to four years of 33 subjects with very mild and mild Alzheimer-type dementia and 21 subjects without dementia.

The researchers found that higher cortisol levels in the subjects with dementia were associated with more rapidly increasing symptoms of dementia and more rapidly decreasing performance on neuropsychological tests associated with temporal lobe function. They found no such associations in subjects without dementia.

"If the hypothesis that stress can increase glucocorticoid levels and accelerate the progression of Alzheimer's disease is confirmed, it would give impetus to the development of therapeutic approaches, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological, to decrease stress and levels of stress-related glucocorticoid hormones," the authors write.

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