Live Longer; Be an Optimist

Repetitive negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia, says Dr. Natalie Marchant, a psychiatrist and senior research fellow in the department of mental health at University College London.

Negative thinking, such as ruminating about the past and worrying about the future, were measured in over 350 people over the age of 55 over a two-year period. About a third of the participants also underwent a brain scan to measure deposits of tau and beta amyloid, two proteins which cause Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.

The scans showed that people who spent more time thinking negatively had more tau and beta amyloid buildup, worse memory and greater cognitive decline over a four-year period compared to optimistic people.

Researchers also tested for anxiety and depression and found greater cognitive decline in depressed and anxious people, which has been proven in past research.

Deposits of tau and amyloid did not increase in the already depressed and anxious people, leading researchers to suspect repeated negative thinking may be the main reason why depression and anxiety contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

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