Old age. Ugh. Frail hips, grey hair, and a precarious grip on one’s bowels; is there anything worse? That’s the attitude many take when it comes to ageing, especially the more youthful members of society, but for those in the know, ageing is a gift to be treasured.
Now a new study from Yale University has backed up claims that embracing ageing can actually help ward off disease and degenerative conditions, including dementia. The study, published in PLOS One, found that maintaining a positive attitude about ageing can prevent dementia from forming, even in those who are genetically predisposition to the disease.
Researchers analysed 4,765 over-60s, who were free of dementia when they began the trial. They found that almost half of those who carried the APOE gene, the genetic anomaly that increases the risk of dementia, remained dementia-free if they felt positive about ageing.
The study is one of a handful of research projects to assess the role environments and attitude can play when it comes to dementia and cognitive health.
The study’s authors said their findings have the potential to open a new pathways for preventive techniques for dementia.
“The age belief-gene finding has a number of possible applications. It could advance research on age beliefs, which has not previously considered how they operate in a high-risk-genetic group,” the study’s authors wrote. “More generally, our finding could provide a rationale for a public-health campaign to combat the societal sources of negative age beliefs.”
The findings support long-standing theories that staying positive can help strengthen cognitive performance, while the opposite usually occurs with negative thoughts. The study also assessed a number of other environmental factors that could have influenced the results like age, gender, racial background, pre-existing medical conditions and even education.
Researchers used the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status test (TICS) which assessed a number of symptoms of dementia including short-term memory, maths skills and delayed recall. Results were recorded every second year. While the results are promising, more research will be needed to assess the impact of positive thinking and dementia.
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