Alzheimer’s Disease Senior Care Facililities in Massachusetts

If you believe the negative stereotypes about aging, you may have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s!

According to two new studies published in the journal, Psychology and Aging, there may be a connection about how you feel about aging (when you are young) and whether you develop Alzheimer’s Disease when you get old!

To determine how people in the study felt about age stereotypes, researchers from the Yale School of Public Health used a scale with statements like “older people are absent-minded” or “older people have trouble learning new things.” Study participants who were in their 40s when the study began, had annual MRI brain scans over the course of 10 years when they were in their late 60s. The MRIs of those who held more negative thoughts about aging earlier in life showed a greater loss of hippocampus volume when they aged. (Loss of volume in that brain region is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.)

In a second study, researchers examined two more markers of Alzheimer’s disease: the buildup in the brain of amyloid plaques—clusters of proteins that accumulate between brain cells—and neurofibrillary tangles, twisted strands of protein that build up in brain cells. To do so, they used brain autopsies of people who also had their attitudes about aging measured.

The results were consistent: People who held more negative age stereotypes had significantly higher scores of plaques and tangles than people with more positive feelings about growing old.

Becca Levy, lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, said, “Our research from 2012 found that people who had more negative age stereotypes before they had reached old age had significantly worse memory performance later in life.”

Levy added, “We know from other studies that as young as age four, children take in stereotypes of their culture. It may be unsettling to think that negative cultural stereotypes about age could be having such a profound effect on how our brains age. But the results can be interpreted a different way, too. Positive age stereotypes seem protective of not experiencing these biomarkers — so if we can find a way to promote positive age stereotypes on a societal level, our brains may be better off once we reach old age.”

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