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A positive attitude could protect you from dementia: Study finds people who embrace ageing are 50% LESS likely to get the disease

February 7, 2018 7:46 PM
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People who don't dread the aging process are less likely to develop dementia, new research claims.

The study found there was a nearly 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia for people with positive attitudes towards growing older, compared to pessimists.

Although the cause of dementia isn't completely understood, experts believe they include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

The findings, published in PLOS ONE, is the first to examine whether ageism, prejudice or discrimination against people because of their age, influence the risk of developing dementia among older people.

'We found that positive age beliefs can reduce the risk of one of the most established genetic risk factors of dementia,' said lead author Dr Becca Levy, professor of public health and of psychology at Yale University.

Dementia primarily afflicts older people and is marked by memory loss and an inability to perform tasks.

For the study, Dr Levy and her colleagues collected data from a group 4,765 people aged 60 and older and followed them for four years.

They collected information regarding their beliefs on aging and their brain function, and controlled for factors such as age and health.

At the start of the study, none of the participants had dementia, but 26 percent of the group were carriers of APOE 4 gene— a strong risk factor for dementia, with 47 percent of carriers developing the chronic brain condition.

Researchers found people with positive age beliefs had a 2.6 percent risk of developing dementia, while those with negative age beliefs had a 4.6 percent risk.

Positive beliefs even protected older people with the APOE 4 gene from developing the disease. They only had a 2.7 percent risk of developing the disease compared to the 6.14 percent risk for carriers with negative age beliefs.

Furthermore, researchers found no major difference between dementia incidence of the APOE 4 group holding positive age beliefs and those without the gene.

A 2016 study published in Psychology and Aging found negative perceptions of aging was associated with a decline in verbal fluency and memory over a two-year period.

Research published in a 2017 issue of The Gerontologist confirms found people who experience age discrimination feel less positive about their own aging.

Researchers said the current study suggests ageism may be a risk factor for developing dementia.

'This [study] makes a case for implementing a public health campaign against ageism, which is a source of negative age beliefs,' Dr Levy said.

'The current study provides evidence that a cultural construct, age beliefs, may contribute to the development of dementia in older individuals,' researchers wrote.


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