Many older adults deal with anxiety on a regular basis. The changes that occur with older age can certainly be a cause to worry. For example, older adults are often coping with the loss of a spouse or other close family members, medical conditions, reduced income after retirement, and a fear of losing their independence. A new study shows that anxiety has an affect on the brain that can be seen using an MRI.
About the Study
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Trento in Italy. It involved 42 people who underwent MRI scans to view the brain and determine whether anxiety changed the anatomy of the brain. In addition to showing changes in the brain, scientists also observed a change in the activity of the brain. The kinds of changes they saw depended on the type of anxiety the person was experiencing.
Researchers divided anxiety into two different types, which they referred to as state and trait. State anxiety was short-term and had something to do with a situation or state of being. Trait anxiety is long-term. It involves more persistent worry and can be described as chronic.
The results of the study showed that people with trait anxiety had structural changes in their brain that were permanent. In those with state anxiety, researchers observed temporary changes in brain activity rather than structural changes.
The importance of this study lies in it’s possible use for diagnostic purposes. In the future, doctors may be able to use an MRI to determine what kind of anxiety the person has and how to treat it.
Tips for Managing Anxiety
While this study may not help your aging relative suffering from anxiety today, there are still things that they can do at home to manage anxiety better, such as these tips:
Take a Break: Seniors will benefit from taking a break from the things that worry them and doing something that helps them to relax, such as taking a yoga class or getting a massage.
Eat Well: Balanced meals improve overall health. It’s important that older adults avoid skipping meals and eat a variety of foods to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
Laugh: Seniors who are able to find the joy in life may experience less anxiety. Try watching a funny movie with them, going to a comedy club, or sharing good memories and old family stories.
In-home care can help your aging relative to cope with anxiety. Simply by having an in-home care provider an older adult may feel less anxious because they know they have someone watching over them and offering help when it is needed. In addition, an in-home care provider can be an excellent distraction from worries by chatting or doing fun activities. Finally, if the senior has been prescribed medications for managing anxiety, an in-home care provider can remind them to take the drugs according to the instructions.