A new study shows that people who engage in “repetitive negative thinking” are at an increased risk for dementia.
How do negative thoughts increase dementia risk?
The study, published in the journal, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, looked at biological markers from 292 people above the age of 55. Study participants also answered questions about how they typically think about negative experiences.
Researchers used PET brain scans to monitor tau and amyloid proteins — two proteins known to cause the most common type of dementia. They also measured metrics like memory, attention, spatial cognition, and language. Their finding? Participants who regularly engaged in repeated negative thinking had more tau and amyloid protein, experienced more cognitive decline over a four-year period, and displayed declines in memory.
“We propose that repetitive negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia as it could contribute to dementia in a unique way,” declared lead author of the study, Dr. Natalie Marchant. “We hope that our findings could be used to develop strategies to lower people’s risk of dementia by helping them to reduce their negative thinking patterns.”
Why do scientists believe that negative thoughts raise dementia risk?
The link between negative thoughts and dementia risk appears to be stress. Researchers found that the stress created by negative thinking patterns is likely to trigger other health issues that lead to the buildup of amyloid and tau protein deposits in the brain.
How can you and your loved ones keep negative thoughts in check?
A host of studies have shown that adopting simple mindfulness practices, like meditation, can help people of all ages deal with daily stress and help reduce negative thinking.
For seniors, mindfulness can take the form of walking meditation, crafting and sewing, bird watching, and other activities that require quiet concentration and motor function.
Caregivers can also benefit from mindfulness. A UCLA study showed that caregivers who engage in “in a brief, simple daily meditation reduced the stress levels of people who care for those stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia,” and “reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health.”
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