The role stress may play in causing dementia is being investigated in a new research project funded by the Alzheimer's Society.

The study, being led by Professor Clive Holmes at the University of Southampton, will monitor 140 people aged over 50 with mild cognitive impairment during an 18-month period.

The participants will be assessed for levels of stress and any progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

About 60% of people with mild cognitive impairment are known to go on to develop Alzheimer's.

Prof Holmes said: "All of us go through stressful events. We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's.

"Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience - possibly even moving home - is also a potential factor.

"This is the first stage in developing ways in which to intervene with psychological or drug-based treatments to fight the disease.

Scroll down to find out ways to beat dementia

"We are looking at two aspects of stress relief - physical and psychological - and the body's response to that experience."

The study is part of a £1.5 million package of six grants being given by the charity to find the cause of the disease, a cure and a way to prevent it.

Alzheimer's Society research manager Anne Corbett said: "The study will look at the role chronic stress plays in the progression from mild thinking and memory problems - mild cognitive impairment - to Alzheimer's disease.

"We feel this is a really important area of research that needs more attention. The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition.

"It will also be valuable to understand how different ways of coping with stressful life events could influence the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease."

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  • Lifestyle Changes To Help Prevent Dementia

  • Drink Decaffeinated Coffee

    A study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/01/decaffeinated-coffee-preserves-memory-diabetes_n_1246240.html" target="_hplink">decaffeinated coffee improves the brain's energy metabolism - linked to cognitive decline</a> - in those with Type 2 diabetes. "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, ageing, and/ or neurodegenerative disorders," said lead researcher, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinett.

  • Play Brain-Teasing Games

    Everyday <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/puzzles-and-exercise-help-beat-dementia-symptoms_n_1122502.html" target="_hplink">games, puzzles and tasks were able to postpone decline in cognitive function and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, in dementia patients, for at least a year</a>, according to research from the University of Erlangen in Germany, published in the journals BMC Medicine.

  • Eat Less

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/20/eat-less-remember-more-and-other-memory-boosters_n_1160584.html" target="_hplink">Eating fewer calories could help boost memory and cognitive function</a>, according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Researchers hope to mimic the same effect with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer's sufferers as well as those suffering from injury-related memory loss.

  • Eat Fish

    Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and School of Medicine found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/30/eating-fish-protects-against-alzheimers_n_1120156.html" target="_hplink">people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's</a>. Reseracher Cyrus Raji said: "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."

  • Play The Wii Fit

    <a href="http://lifestyle.aol.co.uk/2012/01/17/why-a-wii-workout-could-be-better-than-the-gym-for-over-50s/" target="_hplink">Working out using virtual games such as the Wii Fit could slow cognitive decline in the over 50s</a>, researchers from Union College in the US found. Participants aged between 58 and 99 were given a 3D exercise game to play. Compared to the control group who were asked to use a regular exercise bike, the 'cybercycle' group had a 23% decrease in advancement of mild cognitive impairment and showed improved 'executive function'.

  • Do The Seven-Step Plan

    A study in The Lancet Neurology suggest that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/07/19/new-study-shows-seven-way_n_901934.html" target="_hplink">3m cases of Alzheimer's across the world could be prevented in seven simple ways</a>. The report recommends quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and diabetes risk factors as well as managing depression and obesity to help combat the disease.