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Does Religiosity Protect Against Cognitive and Behavioral Decline in Alzheimer's Dementia?

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Background: Several studies have shown that religiosity has beneficial effects on health, mortality and pathological conditions; little is known about religiosity in Alzheimer's disease and the progression of its cognitive, behavioral and functional symptoms. Our aim was to identify any relationship between religiosity and the progression of cognitive impairment and behavioral disorders in mild-moderate Alzheimer's disease, and any relationship between the patient's religiosity and the stress in caregivers.

Materials and Methods: 64 patients with Alzheimer's disease were analyzed at baseline and 12 months later using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Behavioral Religiosity Scale (BRS) and the Francis Short Scale (FSS). Caregivers were also questioned on the patient's functional abilities (ADL, IADL), the behavioral disturbances (NPI), and on their stress (NPI-D, CBI). Patients were divided into 2 groups according to BRS: a score of <24 meant no or low religiosity (LR), while a score of ≥24 meant moderate or high religiosity (HR).

Findings: LR patients had worsened more markedly after 12 months in their total cognitive and behavioral test scores. Stress was also significantly higher in the caregivers of the LR group. Global BRS and FSS scores correlated significantly with variations after 1 year in the MMSE (r: 0.50), NPI (r:-0.51), NPI-D (r:-0.55) and CBI (r:-0.62). A low religiosity coincided with a higher risk of cognitive impairment, considered as a 3-point decrease in MMSE score (OR 6.7, CI: 1.8- 24.7).

Interpretation: Higher levels of religiosity in Alzheimer's dementia seem to correlate with a slower cognitive and behavioral decline, with a corresponding significant reduction of the caregiver's burden.
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Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Behavioral disturbs; Caregiver; Cognitive functions; Religion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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  • Current Alzheimer Research publishes peer-reviewed frontier review and research articles on all areas of Alzheimer's disease. This multidisciplinary journal will help in understanding the neurobiology, genetics, pathogenesis, and treatment strategies of Alzheimer's disease. The journal publishes objective reviews written by experts and leaders actively engaged in research using cellular, molecular, and animal models. The journal also covers original articles on recent research in fast emerging areas of molecular diagnostics, brain imaging, drug development and discovery, and clinical aspects of Alzheimer's disease. Manuscripts are encouraged that relate to the synergistic mechanism of Alzheimer's disease with other dementia and neurodegenerative disorders. Book reviews, meeting reports and letters-to-the-editor are also published. The journal is essential reading for researchers, educators and physicians with interest in age-related dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Current Alzheimer Research provides a comprehensive 'bird's-eye view' of the current state of Alzheimer's research for neuroscientists, clinicians, health science planners, granting, caregivers and families of this devastating disease.
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