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Displaying items by tag: Alzheimer’s Disease

Feeling a sense of purpose or meaning in life is associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment later, according to findings from a review of evidence led by researchers at University College London (UCL).

The UCL researchers examined several positive psychological constructs (e.g., maintaining a positive mood, being optimistic, having a sense of life purpose) to determine if these constructs have a significant association with reduced risk for dementia and other cognitive impairment in later life. 

The results showed that having purpose and meaning in life were key factors consistently associated with reduced risk of dementia years later:

  • Among people who had higher purpose or meaning in life, there was significant association with a reduced risk of multiple cognitive impairment outcomes, including dementia and mild cognitive impairment. 
  • Having a sense of purpose, most notably, was associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment. This finding—reduced risk for cognitive impairment—did not apply to other positive psychological constructs, such as having a positive mood state.

For this study, the UCL research team conducted what is known as a systematic review and meta-analysis, which involves and in-depth approach to pooling and analyzing data from multiple studies. The researchers gathered evidence from nine previously published studies, yielding data from 62,250 older adults (age 50+) across three continents. This makes the findings quite meaningful because they have relevance across different demographics. 

Meaning in Life: How Does it Protect the Brain from Impairment?

One theory about how purpose and meaning, as well as other positive psychological factors, may protect against cognitive decline has to do with the physiological effect that positive mood and resiliency has in the body, including the brain. 

Positive mood promotes a state of balance (homeostasis) in the body. This reduces the circulation of stress hormones and other chemicals that are known to increase inflammation in the cells and tissues, Inflammation, which causes damage to cells and can alter physiological function, is a known underlying factor in many disease processes, including Alzheimer’s Disease and heart disease among others. 

Having a sense of purpose in life seems to promote positive mood, which supports resiliency from stressful events; in turn, this reduces inflammation in the brain—both of which are linked with reduced risk of dementia.

Reinforcing the positive psychological effects that come with having a sense of purpose is the fact that, when people feel their life has meaning and purpose, they are more likely to engage in activities that support their health: exercising, socializing with peers, doing volunteer work—all of which may protect against dementia risk.

The researchers suggest that prevention programs for people at-risk for cognitive impairment and dementia should prioritize activities that help bring purpose and meaning to one’s life. Staff who work with older adults can devote programming time to helping the elder identify what is important them, what their values are, and how they might act in alignment with these priorities and values. The researchers suggested “taking small steps.” For example, if an elder values “education for all,” they could benefit from volunteering as a literacy coach or as a reading buddy in a local school.

Everbrook Senior Living Residents Find Meaning, Purpose in Ageless Communities

The Everbrook philosophy is that, in later life we become ageless: As we fully accept our health and functional status, and that of our friends and neighbors, we recognize how interdependence helps to preserve independence. Our staff design and deliver activities that are suitable for all residents without regard to their functional status (independent living, assisted living, memory care). It is very important to all of us at Everbrook—and to our residents—that there is mutual respect and support among residents and that all residents experience belonging. 

To promote a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose (as suggested by the research study), our staff plans activities that enrich intellectual, social, and emotional wellbeing and help to give residents a sense of control over their aging process. Our interdisciplinary team is well-trained to deliver stage-appropriate activities that are matched to a resident’s functional and cognitive abilities. We employ adaptive methods of communication to evoke and sustain a positive emotion throughout the day. 

Our Wellness 4 Later Life™ program model encompasses seven dimensions of wellness: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and environmental, as are advocated by the International Council of Active Aging. We help our residents discover what is significant in their life, now. Residents, with as much support as is needed, identify ways to add meaning/purpose to their self-care, in their activities at Everbrook, and in the community beyond Everbrook.

Original Research
Positive psychological constructs and association with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by Georgia Bell et al. Ageing Research Reviews. The study was supported by the Alzheimer’s Society

Supporting Research, Resources

Dockray, S., & Steptoe, A. (2010). Positive affect and psychobiological processes. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 35(1), 69–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.01.006 

Ong, A. D., Mroczek, D. K., & Riffin, C. (2011). The Health Significance of Positive Emotions in Adulthood and Later Life. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(8), 538–551.https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00370.x 

National Institute on Aging. Positive Mood in Older Adults Suggests Better Brain Function. (2020, Research Highlights 

Published in Health & Wellness

This Valentine’s Day we want to remind you of a special relationship between physical health and level of risk for cognitive decline. You may already be aware that, when you engage in physical activity you are building both physical and mental fitness. What you may not know is there is a “brain-heart-health connection” that influences your risk of cognitive decline: The healthier your heart, the lower your level of risk is for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). 

What Does a Healthy Brain Require?

The brain-heart-health connection isn’t particularly complex. In a nutshell, a healthy brain requires 3 things:  

  1. glucose (the chemical name for sugar) for energy
  2. a strong blood supply to carry glucose and oxygen into the brain
  3. a healthy diet to provide essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, healthy fats) that serve as building blocks for brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. 

Look over those items once more time. Numbers 1 and 3 on the list are directly related to your diet---what, how often, and how much you eat. Number 2 – a strong blood supply--is related to heart health. So how does heart health relate to brain health?

How a Fit, Healthy Heart Fuels a Fit, Healthy Brain

Your brain relies on a strong heart to pump oxygenated blood into all regions. Scientists now believe that the disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s Disease begins when brain tissue degrades and nerve tissue becomes damaged. Poor circulation to the brain is a key factor in causing such damage to brain tissue.

If you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, have diabetes, or other cardiovascular risk factors, it’s not only your heart that is at risk for disease, your brain is as well. For example, a type of dementia called vascular dementia can happen as a result of a series of small, “silent” strokes, sometimes called “mini-strokes.” Also, repeated or prolonged stress on the heart (such as from lack of physical activity, smoking, and stress) can lead to blockages and high blood pressure, which in turn affects circulation to the brain.

The good news is, many of the same things that strengthen the heart also help keep your brain fit and healthy

Exercise Daily. Exercise helps to strengthen the heart making it more efficient with each contraction; it improves the elasticity and strength of blood vessels; helps to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. When you exercise to build a healthy heart you are also supporting the health of your brain. 

Manage Stress. Stress elevates hormones in the body that increase inflammation which, over time, contributes to illness. Meditation, yoga, and mindful walking are stress management activities that put a damper on stress hormones and support the health of the heart, brain and body.

Smart Food. As we age, our bodies can become less efficient at digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Exercising and choosing nutrient-rich foods helps maintain healthy digestive processes, and provides the fuel the brain, heart and body need to maintain vital health. 

There are many other heart-healthy strategies you can use to support brain health. These include maintaining a sleep routine for adequate rest; reducing your intake of caffeine, processed foods, sugars, and alcohol; and of course, not smoking. 

Remember, the disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s evolves slowly, over as many as ten to twenty years! But the onset of dementia and AD can feel sudden because of the way it robs people of their vitality, memories, and quality of life. You have so many years ahead of you to take care of your heart and your brain...why not start today so that you can have a fitter, healthier future in your Golden Years!

Supporting Healthy Minds and Bodies at Everbrook Senior Living

From delicious, nutritious food to wellness and fitness activities to meet a wide variety of interests and needs, Everbrook Senior Living boasts a wide array of health and wellness solutions for every stage of life. Our cutting-edge wellness activities help participants achieve improvements in cardiovascular fitness, strength, and balance. These outcomes help residence reduce risk of injury from falls and risk for cardiovascular disease. 

The Wellness 4 Later Life program embodies the seven dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, spiritual and environmental. Our highly experienced team of professional nurses, physiologists, therapists, and instructors delivers a customized, safe, and fun exercise program for each of our older adults. Enrichment activities help round out the needs of each resident, through activities that build community, strengthen cognitive skills, and support emotional wellbeing. 

Sources

CDC.com “Brain Health is Connected to Heart Health” Accessed 18 Jan 2022:https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/brain_health.htm

Natural Healing: Prevent Illness and Improve Your Life. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (2017). (print)

TED Radio Hour. "Lisa Genova: Can Alzheimer's Disease be Prevented?" Accessed 10 Apr 2018:https://www.npr.org/2017/07/21/537016132/lisa-genova-can-alzheimers-disease-be-prevented 

NIA.NIH.gov "What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?" Accessed 10 Apr 2018:https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-causes-alzheimers-disease

Smith G.E., "Healthy Cognitive Function and Dementia Prevention." Am Psychol. (2016, May-June). 71:4, 268-275. Accessed 9 Apr  2018:http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/71/4/268/ 

Healthy Aging and Prevention: Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Emory University.http://alzheimers.emory.edu/healthy_aging/index.html 

 

 

Published in Health & Wellness
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