Positive beliefs about aging may reduce the risk of dementia even among older adults who are genetically at risk of developing dementia, research at Yale University finds.
The study reports that older persons with positive age beliefs who carry one of the strongest risk factors for developing dementia - the E4 variant of the APOE gene, were nearly 50 percent less likely to develop the disease than their peers who held negative age beliefs.
The study is the first to examine whether culture-based age beliefs influence the risk of developing dementia among older people, including those who carry the high-risk gene variant.
Levy and her co-authors, Martin Slade and Robert Pietrzak from Yale School of Medicine, and Luigi Ferrucci, scientific director of the National Institute on Aging, studied a group of 4,765 people, with an average age of 72 years, who were free of dementia at the start of the study. Twenty-six percent of the participants in the study were carriers of APOE E4. The research team controlled for factors including age and health of the participants.
The study demonstrated that APOE E4 carriers with positive beliefs about aging had a 2.7 percent risk of developing dementia, compared to a 6.1 percent risk for those with negative beliefs about aging, over the four-year study duration.
Dementia primarily afflicts older people and is marked by memory loss and an inability to perform tasks.
Previous research by Levy and colleagues has shown that positive age beliefs can be strengthened.
The complete study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.