According to a new study just published in JAMA Network Open, people with elevated stress levels may have worsened cognitive function, affecting their memory, concentration, and ability to learn.
The study authors further reported that “participants with elevated levels of stress were more likely to have uncontrolled CVD risk factors and lifestyle factors (including physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking).”
However, even after adjusting for these, the study participants were still 37% more likely to have cognitive issues.
They felt it was important to study the relationship between stress and cognition because stress has previously been shown to be a modifiable risk factor for various types of dementia, including the most common type, Alzheimer’s disease.
Their analysis was based on data collected by the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study.
This federally funded study includes over 30,000 Black and white Americans, aged 45 and up. Participants were initially recruited between 2003 and 2007 and have been receiving follow-ups every year since, via phone, questionnaires, and at-home exams.
The goal of the study
The primary goal of the REGARDS study is to look at differences in brain health, particularly in Black people living in the so-called “stroke belt” in certain areas of the South.
Analysis of the data for this new study revealed that both races had a similar association between elevated stress and reduced cognitive function. However, Black individuals tended to report greater stress overall.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health states that Black adults have a 50% greater risk of stroke than white adults.
Additionally, they are about two times as likely to develop dementia, per the Alzheimer’s Association.