Anxiety, depression, stress—all of these are familiar to massage therapists in their work with clients, but all can be symptoms of something much more serious than day-to-day challenges: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). New research shows that PTSD is associated with higher risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The research was reported in mid-July at the Alzheimer’s Association 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Vienna.

PTSD is common among veterans returning from combat and there is some evidence that it may be associated with reduced cognitive function. However, no study has yet investigated if PTSD increases the risk of developing dementia.

To address this emerging issue, researchers sought to determine if PTSD is associated with risk of developing dementia among older veterans in the U.S. receiving treatment in veterans’ medical centers. They found that veterans with PTSD were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to veterans without PTSD.

“It is critical to follow patients with PTSD, and evaluate them early for dementia,” Yaffe said. “Further research is needed to fully understand what links these two important disorders. With that knowledge we may be able to find ways to reduce the increased risk of dementia associated with PTSD.”

Editor’s note: The March 2009 issue of MASSAGE Magazine included the article, “Healing the Wounds of War,” which detailed how massage-therapy groups and individuals have stepped forward to ease soldiers’ suffering from PTSD using the power of touch.