Positive attitude decreases the risk of dementia by 50%

One of the strongest risk factors for dementia is the ε4 variant of the APOE gene. One quarter of the population carries the ε4 variant of the APOE gene, which is one of the strongest risk factors for dementia. Yet, many who carry it never develop dementia. This study examined perceptions about various aspects of old age, reduces the risk of dementia for APOE ε4 carriers as well as older individuals in general.

In this study of 4,765 Health and Retirement Study participants who were aged 60 or older and dementia-free at the beginning. Among those with APOE ε4, those with positive age beliefs were 49.8% less likely to develop dementia than those with negative age beliefs. The results of this study suggest that positive age beliefs, which are modifiable and have been found to reduce stress, can act as a protective factor, even for older individuals at high risk of dementia.

Considerable research has found that positive age beliefs predict better cognitive performance; whereas, negative age beliefs predict worse cognitive performance. The pattern of age beliefs predicting cognition has been supported many studies, together with three meta-analyses. Further, a recent study found that negative age beliefs predicted the development of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers.

Short- and long-term randomized controlled interventions conducted with older participants have shown that positive age beliefs can be bolstered and negative age beliefs can be mitigated with corresponding changes in cognitive and physical performance.

Recent studies found that negative age beliefs can exacerbate stress; in contrast, positive age beliefs can help buffer against the deleterious effects of stress. While another set of studies suggests that stress can contribute to the development of dementia.

However, underlying all this is inflammation and oxidation. The increased negative attitude leads to increased stress which leads to increased inflammation and oxidation which leads to increased dementia. Stop the downward cycle by lowering the inflammation and bolstering the positive thoughts.

The reduction of stress by positive age beliefs could potentially contribute to a lower incidence of dementia among older individuals in general and specifically among those with APOE ε4.



Levy BR, Slade MD, Pietrzak RH, Ferrucci L (2018) Positive age beliefs protect against dementia even among elders with high-risk gene. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0191004.



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