Research Shows You Can Worry Yourself Into
Dementia and Even Alzheimer’s
It’s well known that an optimistic attitude is good for you — mentally and physically. Optimists are healthier, happier and likely to live longer than people who are not so cheerful.
Over time, negative emotions like worry and anxiety may increase your risk of cognitive impairment by 40 percent.
Conversely, a new study by researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Chicago’s Rush University has recently proven what commonsense would dictate: the opposite also holds true.
People who are prone to “psychological distress” — negative emotions like worry and anxiety — are more likely to develop memory problems than those who adopt a more carefree existence, according to an analysis of two studies on aging that together included over 1,200 people.
In fact, study participants who experienced negative emotions most often were 40 percent more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who experienced the least negativity.
Cognitive impairment involves mild memory or cognitive problems, and can be a stepping-stone to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A past study by the same researchers also indicated that people who are easily distressed are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who are not.
“People differ in how they tend to experience and deal with negative emotions and psychological distress, and the way people respond tends to stay the same throughout their adult lives,” said Robert S. Wilson, PhD, one of the study’s authors.
“These findings suggest that, over a lifetime, chronic experience of stress affects the area of the brain that governs stress response. Unfortunately, that part of the brain also regulates memory,” he continued.
What Can You do if You’re a Pessimistic Worrier?
In an ideal world, none of us would think negatively, but, in reality, many of us do. Trying to worry less and keep your “psychological distress” to a minimum will go a long way toward improving the quality of your life, and in time perhaps your memory as well.
“I do think that being less prone to negative emotions should reduce one’s risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s,” Wilson said in a Psychiatric News article.
“This trait is pretty stable in adulthood and old age, however, so changing it may be difficult,” he says.
It may take some work, but changing your habit of thinking negatively is possible. Here are some tips to help you gain your newfound positive outlook:
- Replace negative words/phrases with positive ones (instead of saying “I’m so fat, I’ll never lose weight,” say “I’m thankful for having the motivation to not eat a second piece of cake”).
To get yourself into a positive state of mind with humor, what ever makes you laugh, looking at pictures of loved ones, remembering fun times spent with friends and or family, cherished Holidays, vaction locations, etc.
- When you feel stressed out, try various relaxation techniques until you find the one’s that works best for you.
- Cherish the small things in life.
- Think only positive thoughts about yourself and your life.
- Practice the important art of forgiveness.
- Show your gratitude for the good things in your life.
- Jot down 10 things you love about your life every day.
- Try to live in the present, feeling neither regret for past events nor fear or anxiety about the future.
Neurology; vol 68: pp 2085-2092