Think Positive About Aging

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Are you worried about the aches and pains of getting old?  If you do, then don’t.  It could make you lose your mind.

Individuals who hold negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new Yale University study.  Figuring out a way to think positively about growing old could be a good way to lower the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the findings.  Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that causes dementia in more than 5 million Americans.  The findings were published online Dec. 7 in the journal of Psychology and Aging.

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes,” said Becca Levy, associate professor of public health and of psychology. “Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Based on MRIs, the researchers found that long-time participants who held more negative beliefs about aging showed a greater decline in the volume of the hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial to memory. Reduced hippocampus volume is an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

Then researchers used brain autopsies to examine two other indicators of Alzheimer’s disease: Amyloid plaques, which are protein clusters that build up between brain cells; and neurofibrillary tangles, which are twisted strands of protein that build up within brain cells. Participants holding more negative beliefs about aging had a significantly greater number of plaques and tangles. The age stereotypes were measured an average of 28 years before the plaques and tangles.

So, for those who worry about getting up in years, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.  And for those who need help with positive thinking, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about taking care of the problem.

That’s where a trained wellness coach might come in.  Wellness coaches work with doctors and patients on an integrative approach to becoming healthy physically, mentally and spiritually — and staying that way.

Lisa Burbage

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