Study finds seniors with a positive mental state less likely to have cerebral tissue damage
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Alan Mozes
THURSDAY, March 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Having a strong sense of purpose in life may lower the likelihood of brain tissue damage in older adults, new research suggests.
Autopsies conducted among adults in their 80s revealed that those who felt their lives had meaning had far fewer "macroscopic infarcts" -- small areas of dead tissue resulting from blockage of blood flow.
This kind of brain tissue damage is believed to boost the risk for developing dementia, movement problems, disability and/or death -- many classic characteristics of old age.
"We know that negative emotional states like feeling bad, alone or sad are associated with a lot of negative health outcomes, whether or not you actually are alone or why you may be feeling badly," said study co-author Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago.
Such outcomes can include early death, an increased likelihood for developing dementia and Alzheimer's, or a higher risk for disability, she noted.
"What's exciting about our new work is that we focused on the positive impact of having a purpose in life," Boyle added. "Meaning, having a feeling of well-being and a sense that your life is good, and that you're doing something important with your time."
What the team is finding, she said, is that having a positive mental state is somehow protective in old age.
While the study found a connection between feeling a sense of purpose and brain tissue damage, it did not prove cause-and-effect.
The research, published in the March 19 issue of Stroke, was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The study authors noted that blood flow constriction in the brain drives up the risk for tissue damage and for stroke.
For the study, the researchers conducted autopsies on 453 seniors who had enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project while in their 80s and still apparently dementia-free. The average age at autopsy was 84.
Roughly one-quarter were found to have experienced a stroke before death. Nearly half had signs of major and minor brain tissue damage.
source : A Sense of Purpose May Benefit Your Brain