Your Attitude About Aging Might Affect Odds for Dementia

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If you hope to avoid dementia in old age, having an upbeat view on aging itself might help, new research suggests.

Researchers found that people with positive beliefs about aging had a nearly 44 percent lower risk of developing dementia over the next four years than those with a dimmer outlook.

The protective link was seen even among people who carried a gene variant called APOE4, which raises the risk for dementia.

However, the findings do not prove that negative attitudes about aging lead to mental decline. Rather, the study shows only an association between people’s beliefs and their dementia risk, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Those beliefs also could reflect other things. For instance, Fargo said, it’s possible that some people with a negative outlook were in the earliest stages of dementia — before it could be recognized.

“It’s easy to see how someone in the early stages of dementia could be feeling bad about aging,” said Fargo, who wasn’t involved with the study.

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SOURCES: Becca Levy, Ph.D., professor, public health and psychology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Conn.; Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director, scientific programs and outreach, Alzheimer's Association, Chicago; PLOS ONE, Feb. 7, 2018, online

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