How You Feel about Your Grandfather May Affect Your Brain Health Later in Life
People who believe negative stereotypes about the elderly may be at a greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, suggests new research from the Yale School of Public Health.
In the study, adults who strongly identified with statements such as “old people are absent-minded” or “older people can’t learn new things” were more likely to show changes in their brains associated with Alzheimer’s years later, like plaques or tangles of protein strands.
These adults also showed a greater decline in the volumes of their hippocampus—a part of the brain vital for memory—than people who felt more positive about seniors.
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The researchers aren’t exactly sure why it happens, but they speculate that holding negative beliefs toward seniors can spike your stress levels, which may lead to harmful changes in your brain over time, says study author Becca Levy, Ph.D.
And if you believe these age stereotypes now, then you’ll probably believe them with each passing birthday, too. That can affect your brain health even more when you’re older, she says.
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The even crazier part: It’s likely only cynical thoughts toward the elderly—not an overall negative attitude in general—that can be tied to Alzheimer’s disease, Levy says.
In her study, the significant link between aging stereotypes and brain changes still existed even after controlling for the participants’ wellbeing.
So if you’re negative about everything but seniors, you probably won’t be as likely to get Alzheimer’s as the guy who loves everything except for grandparents.
Ask yourself these questions: How do you feel about the seniors in your life or the ones you come into contact with? Do you get frustrated with them? Do you find yourself talking down to them?
Noticing a connotation of pessimism in your answers? Levy suggests finding an older man or woman to respect and emulate. Someone who is living his life in a way that you would be proud to live yours at his age. He could be a family member or even a celebrity. (Or one of these 7 Old Guys Who Can Kick Your Ass.)
It may seem like a silly task to you now, but Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease. If the simple act of thinking more positively could potentially decrease your risk down the road, you should do it.