Attitude Toward Aging May Affect Alzheimer’s

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Positive or negative thinking has long been thought to affect many things in people’s lives, including their health. Now a new study suggests that how a people look at and think about the whole idea of aging may play a role in their chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Published Study

walking dog.jpgThe study, entitled “A Culture-Brain Link: Negative Age Stereotypes Predict Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarkers,” was published in the journal Psychology and Age.
The scientists involved in the study looked at information from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.  They selected subjects who had been dementia-free early in the study and looked at whether they had an attitude toward aging that was more positive or more negative.
The researchers then studied brain MRIs that were conducted on these subjects years later. Among other things, the brain MRI enables a doctor to determine if there have been changes in the hippocampus, a portion of the brain that plays a big role in memory-related issues. Scientists have determined that the presence of Alzheimer’s disease is often associated with a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus.
When the doctors looked at the MRIs of the study subjects, they found that there was a greater likelihood that the hippocampus had lost more volume among the group of participants who expressed more negative views about aging.

Plaques and Tangles

In some cases, there were brain autopsies for patients in the study who had passed away. These were examined as well, with the scientists looking for signs of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Both of these are also associated with Alzheimer’s disease. As before, these conditions were more often found in individuals who had expressed more negative feelings about aging.
Exactly why negative views on aging might increase the risk of dementia is not clear, although it may have to do with the stress that is generated from worrying and feeling anxiety about getting older.
Becca Levy, lead researcher, emphasized that negative views and attitudes can be changed. Therefore, encouraging individuals to take a more positive view toward aging may help them better maintain their brain health as they age.
Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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