If You Notice Pain Here, Your Risk of Alzheimer's Is 47 Percent Higher
A new study has found a link between this kind of pain and dementia.
If we sought medical attention every time something in our bodies hurt, we would probably never leave our doctor's office. From headaches to muscle aches, many of our everyday pains are just a normal part of aging. But if you notice a particular type of pain, you should talk to your doctor—and not only to deal with that specific discomfort. According to a new study, some pain could actually indicate that your risk of Alzheimer's disease is significantly higher. Read on to find out if your chances of developing Alzheimer's could be heightened.
If you have widespread pain, your risk of Alzheimer's disease is higher.
A new study published Aug. 16 in the Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine journal looked at the association between pain and dementia. The researchers used data from more than 2,400 participants who were given comprehensive check-ups—which included detailed pain assessments—between 1990 and 1994, and then divided them into three pain groups: widespread pain, other pain in only the joints, and no pain. Widespread pain is classified as pain above and below the waist, on the left and right sides of the body, and in the skull, backbone and ribs, according to criteria from the American College of Rheumatology.
Based on the study, those with widespread pain were 47 percent more likely to have Alzheimer's disease than those without, even after taking into account any other potential factors. These individuals were also still more at risk when compared to those with other pain in the joints only.
Widespread pain is also a risk factor for other forms of dementia and stroke.
Those with widespread pain are not just at heightened risk for Alzheimer's disease, however. According to the study, people with this type of pain also have a 43 percent higher risk for all-cause dementia and a 29 percent higher risk for stroke. The researchers say that their study is observational, so it doesn't necessarily confirm that widespread pain causes these issues, but that there is a clear association. "These findings provide convincing evidence that widespread pain (WSP) may be a risk factor for all-cause dementia, Alzheimer's disease (AD) dementia, and stroke," the researchers concluded.
People over the age of 65 may be even more at risk if they have widespread pain.
The researchers also looked at the specific risk factors for those over the age of 65. This subgroup had risk levels of Alzheimer's disease and stroke that were even higher than the overall group. People with widespread pain over 65 had a 48 percent higher risk of Alzheimer's and a 54 percent heightened risk of stroke. But this isn't all that surprising, as the overall risk for dementia and stroke goes up with age, regardless of pain. According to MUSC Health, around 75 percent of strokes occur in people 65 or older. And once you reach the age of 65, your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia doubles around every five years, per the Alzheimer's Society.
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Widespread pain has also been associated with other health problems.
According to the researchers, previous studies have frequently associated widespread pain with other complications, such as "fatigue, psychological distress, and concentration problems," as well as "with other medical disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, and end-stage renal disease." A 2017 study from the U.K. also found that people with widespread pain have an increased risk of death from certain health concerns, such as cancer and heart disease. But the researchers for this study said that the risk was unlikely to be caused by the pain, but rather a result of the lifestyle factors associated with having the pain in the first place, like low levels of physical activity and poor diet.