Loneliness A Possible Sign Of Alzheimer's Disease: Study

First Posted: Nov 03, 2016 04:28 AM EDT

A recent study revealed that loneliness might be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have found that healthy seniors who have increased levels of amyloid are more likely to feel lonely than people with low amyloid levels.

Amyloid is a type of protein fragment associated with Alzheimer's disease. According to CBS News, loneliness may be a warning of getting the illness. Lead researcher Dr. Nancy Donovan said people with high levels of the protein fragment were 7.5 times more likely to feel lonely. She added that those accumulating amyloid may not function well in terms of understanding, perceiving, or responding to social interactions; and this could be a sign of mental change. Donovan is the director of the Women's Hospital in Boston and the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment located at Brigham.

In the study, she and her colleagues focused on 43 women and 36 men around 76 years of age. The respondents were healthy and had no signs of Alzheimer's disease. Using standard psychological exams, the researchers measured each subject's level of loneliness. Additionally, they used imaging scans to determine the amount of amyloid in their brains. The team showed that older people who feel socially detached even around friends and family are more likely to be at risk for the illness.

Meanwhile, Independent reported that it was unclear whether social isolation may be the actual cause of the development of the disease or it is just among the numerous symptoms. Nevertheless, Donovan said the doctors should pay closer attention to the emotional health of patients once the aforementioned claim becomes proven.

Dean Hartley from the Alzheimer's Association said that doctors may undergo trainings to look for loneliness, mood changes, apathy, or social impulsiveness as early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. He stressed that early diagnosis is important in treating the illness. Hartley is the director of science initiatives, medical, and scientific relations at the previously mentioned association.

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