Georgetown Scientific Research Journal GSR Journal
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Research Articles

Vol. 4 No. 1 (2024): GSRJ Spring 2024

Association between IL-6 and Caregiving for People Living with Dementia (PLWD) and Potential Interventions

October 2, 2023


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 55 million people worldwide that are currently diagnosed with dementia.1 Informal caregivers (such as family and friends) of people living with dementia (PLWD) take up more than 50% of the cost for caregiving.1 Apart from the cost, caregivers to PLWD also spend a significant amount of time (4 hours) per day caring for dementia patients.1 This leads to a significant amount of financial, emotional and social stress on a daily basis. This essentially leads to an exaggerated proinflammatory response and increased levels of Interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is a tightly regulated cytokine. IL-6 binds to the IL-6 receptor, which starts a signaling cascade and transcription of genes downstream. This paper discusses research studies that explore the association between IL-6 levels and the caregiving status of individuals. One of the studies reviewed was a 6-year longitudinal study that found that the IL-6 levels of caregivers were predicted to rise at a rate approximately 4 times faster than that of noncaregivers. Another study that was reviewed in this paper suggested that the IL-6 levels of former caregivers were not significantly different than that of current caregivers. This may be explained by the idea that the increased stress created a more permanent prolonging and exaggeration of the caregiver’s proinflammatory response system. However, higher IL-6 levels are known to be associated with physiological consequences. Excessive proinflammatory markers, such as IL-6, can affect the profibrinolytic and anticoagulant effects of endothelial cells, and hence, lead to an increased cardio-cerebrovascular disease (CCVDs), such as heart failure (HF), myocardial infarction (MI), ischemic stroke (IS), and atherosclerosis. Therefore, an intervention for caregivers to PLWD is essential to help reduce IL-6 levels. This paper also reviews studies that test interventions to help reduce the IL-6 levels. One of the studies showed that higher levels of coping self-efficacy (CSE) led to a decrease in IL-6 levels during high stress. Another study also suggested that a 6-week Pleasant Events Program (PEP), a behavioral activation program, led to a significant decrease in IL-6 levels from pre- to post-intervention. Looking forward, the paper also discusses some future avenues of research to develop an intervention to reduce IL-6 levels in caregivers to people living with dementia (PLWD).