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Negative Thoughts And Alzheimer’s Risk

People who regard the prospect of aging negatively are more likely to develop brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease than those who have a more positive outlook. On the plus side, changing those downbeat views may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The findings that views of aging can influence Alzheimer’s come from a Yale study that looked at healthy individuals enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The researchers elicited the participants’ views on aging and followed up years later with MRIs - and in some cases brain autopsies - to see if a person’s outlook on aging correlated with brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s. The MRIs showed a greater decline in the volume of the hippocampus, the brain area that is key to memory, among people whose views of aging were negative than among others in the study. The brain autopsies showed a significantly greater number of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles - both brain changes indicating Alzheimer’s - in participants with negative views of aging. In some cases these views were expressed 28 years before the plaques and tangles were seen. Study leader Becca Levy, Ph.D., associate professor of public health and psychology, suggested that stress generated by negative views on aging might be responsible for the brain changes. Replacing negative beliefs with positive ones might help head off the impact of the pessimistic views, Dr. Levy said.


My Take? This is an interesting study. What it found about the outcome of negative views of aging squares with earlier findings about the health risks associated with pessimism. We know that pessimism has been linked to a higher risk of dying before age 65, while positive emotions - such as optimism - are associated with lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. We also know that optimism is at least partially learned, which suggests that Dr. Levy is right - it is possible to replace negative views with positive ones.  

3 Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s

Want to keep your brain healthy and ward off dementia? Try adding these three, simple steps to your daily routine. 

To help preserve mental function and protect against age-related cognitive decline including dementia and Alzheimer's disease, consider implementing these healthy lifestyle strategies:

  1. Get 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Regular physical exercise, specifically aerobic exercise such as walking at a quick pace, can help slow memory loss and improve mental function.
  2. Develop healthy habits in all aspects of life. Not smoking, drinking only in moderation, staying socially involved, managing stress, getting adequate rest, and cultivating a positive attitude and outlook have all been associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer's.
  3. Keep an active mind. "Use it or lose it" applies to mental as well as physical health. Enjoy crossword puzzles, mind games, challenging reading, and take educational classes.


5 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging to diagnose, especially in its early stages. Learn about five common signs that distinguish it from common forgetfulness.

Over 30 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer's disease. Use this list to help to distinguish between the normal memory loss that accompanies aging and early signs of Alzheimer's disease. Talk with your physician if you or a family member is displaying any of these symptoms:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This common sign of Alzheimer's includes forgetting important dates, events and recently learned information, as well as repeatedly asking for the same information and relying on others for completion of previously routine tasks.
  2. Planning and problem solving challenges. Common examples are taking a long time to complete familiar, simple tasks such as developing a plan, working with numbers, following directions (such as a recipe) or keeping track of monthly bills.
  3. Familiar tasks become unfamiliar. It may be difficult to complete daily, routine tasks such as driving to a familiar location, reciting much-used phone numbers, or remembering the rules of favorite games.
  4. Confusion about time or place. Losing track of dates, where you are or how you got there, and the general passage of time without recognition is a sign of Alzheimer's.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images, difficulty reading, judging distance, determining color or contrast, and confusion as to what is reflected in a mirror may affect some people with Alzheimer's.

Gout and Alzheimer’s Disease

Here's some good news about gout: new research suggests it might protect against Alzheimer's disease. Investigators looked at medical database records in the U.K. to examine the health consequences associated with gout. They identified 59,224 individuals with gout, about 71 percent of them male, and matched their medical cases with 238,805 men and women of similar health who didn't have gout. After 5.1 years of follow up, the researchers found 309 new cases of Alzheimer's disease in the gout patients and 1,942 in the control group. After adjusting for body mass index, smoking, alcohol use and other factors, the researchers concluded that gout seems to lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 24 percent. Earlier research had suggested that increased uric acid levels may be protective against dementia, and elevated blood levels of uric acid, a breakdown product of protein metabolism, are a hallmark of gout. Study leader Hyon Choi, M.D., Dr.P.H., director of epidemiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, was quoted in news reports as saying that while the association of uric acid and cognitive health are still speculative, uric acid has proven antioxidant properties, and has been shown in animal studies to protect against oxidative stress induced death of brain cells. The study results were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

Walnuts to Slow Alzheimer’s

Eating a few walnuts a day may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and even slow the progression of the disease, at least in mice. A new study from the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities found that adding walnuts to the diets of mice with the mouse version of Alzheimer's boosted the animals' learning skills, memory, reduced anxiety and improved motor development. The amount of walnuts added to the mouse diet was the equivalent of a human portion of one ounce to one and a half ounces per day. The researchers performed this study following laboratory findings that walnut extracts showed activity against the oxidative damage caused by amyloid protein, the major component of amyloid plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. The investigators said that the high antioxidant content of walnuts may have helped protect the mouse brain from the degeneration seen with Alzheimer's. The study also suggested that adding walnuts to their diet delayed the onset or prevented Alzheimer's in the mice.