Purpose and Alzheimer’s

Do you feel your life has a purpose? If you do, you’re a lot less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
That’s the conclusion of a study which looked at the positive aspects of life and how they might keep dementia at bay. Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago asked nearly a thousand older people to respond to statements like: “I feel good when I think of what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in the future,” and “I have a sense of direction and purpose in life.”

The researchers found that people who responded most positively to those statements were the least likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. After four years, 16.3 percent were diagnosed with the disease.

The scientists don’t understand the biological reason for this. But they say more social activity, more physical activity, and high purpose in life are all factors that seem to be linked with longer life, decreased mortality, and decreased disability. They believe that provides important clues to a public health approach to try to increase independence in older people in later life.

Some experts wonder whether there is more Alzheimer’s disease when people have a lower sense of purpose, or is a lower sense of purpose an early, subtle, sign of dementia?
More research is needed to figure out if this perception is simply a symptom or an opportunity for doctors to intervene.

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