Positive Views on Aging Linked to Reduced Dementia Risk: Study Finds

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The protective effect of positive views of aging was even found in adults with gene that increases dementia risk.

A positive attitude about ageing reduces dementia risk, even in genetically predisposed people, according to global research led by Yale University. There’s even some evidence that the brains of people who are pessimistic are more likely to have the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

For the new research, a team led by Becca Levy of the Yale School of Public Health used survey results from the Health and Retirement Study, which is conducted every other year by the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research.

Previous research by Prof Levy and her colleagues has shown that positive age beliefs can be strengthened. The cognitive status of the study participants was assessed by a standard test conducted over the phone. This isn’t the first study to link age beliefs to dementia. This protective effect was found for all participants, as well as among those carrying a gene that puts them at higher risk of developing dementia, a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health has found.

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.

The study of more than 4000 over 60s found that in those with positive beliefs about ageing, the dementia risk was nearly half that of those with negative beliefs. Over the four-year study duration, the researchers found that APOE E4 carriers with positive beliefs about aging had a 2.7% risk of developing dementia, compared to a 6.1% risk for those with negative beliefs about aging.

Citation: Levy BR, Slade MD, Pietrzak RH, Ferrucci L (2018) Positive age beliefs protect against dementia even among elders with high-risk gene. “This makes a case for implementing a public health campaign against ageism, which is a source of negative age beliefs”.

Funding: This study was supported by a National Institute on Aging grant (U01AG032284-05A1) to BL, MS RP and LF.

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