Positive attitude towards ageing reduces dementia risk

Older adults with positive views on aging may have a reduced risk for dementia

Older adults with positive views on aging may have a reduced risk for dementia

Thinking positively about aging might significantly reduce a person's risk of dementia, a new study has found-even for people with one of the strongest genetic risk factors.

All participants reduced their relative risk of developing dementia by 44 percent if they held positive beliefs, while even those with the gene variation reduced their risk by 50 percent if they held positive beliefs. A 4 year United States study found the protective effect of being positive about growing older was even found in adults with the APOE4 gene which increases their chances of developing dementia symptoms. In fact, the researchers said, a positive attitude toward aging could essentially erase the handicap associated with carrying a risky variant of the APOE gene. PLoS ONE 13 (2): e0191004.

Stereotypes aren't easy to overcome. The new study is the first to analyze how cultural beliefs about aging affects development, even in these high-risk patients.

Adapted from a press release provided by Yale School of Public Health. They included a group of 4,765 people in their study who were all aged an average of 72 years. They were given series of questionnaires to assess their attitudes towards aging and also tested for their cognitive skills periodically. Among other things, they were asked to count backward from 20, to name the president and vice president and to recall a list of 10 items. Participants retook the test every two years.

A certain gene called ApoE which raises the risk for dementia is considered by many to be the primary genetic risk factor. 26 percent of participants had an E4 variant of the ApoE gene and 91 percent of them were white. Those with a positive attitude have a 49.8 per cent lower risk of developing dementia compared to the other high risk individuals holding negative beliefs towards aging. So did 2.6 percent of the adults with positive beliefs.

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Researchers found that Study participants with positive beliefs about aging had a almost 44 percent lower risk of developing dementia than those with negative beliefs.

Chances of developing dementia could be lowered with a positive attitude towards aging.

"Age beliefs tend to be internalized early in life and then remain stable over the lifespan, without interventions", Levy and her colleagues wrote.

Becca Levy, from the Yale School of Public Health, who led the research, believes it makes the case for introducing public health campaigns against ageism and negative age beliefs.

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