An Article by Tara Bahrampour in the December 8 Washington Post summarizes two articles in the Journal Psychology and Aging. This research shows that people who have negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s. They found that the volume of the hippocampus, measured by an MRI exam declined by three times as much among those who hold negative stereotypes about aging when compared with those who do not. The hippocampus is a structure in the brain which is critical for memory.
The research participants were interviewed about their views on aging long before the onset of dementia. Here are some of the examples of the stereotypes believed by these individuals:
Old people are absent minded.
Old people are grouchy.
Old people can’t learn new things.
Readers of the healthy memory blog should be well aware that these stereotypes are false. Readers of the healthy memory blog should also be well aware that one’s attitude is key in thwarting Alzheimer’s. Remember the distinction between fixed and growth mindsets. People having the above beliefs obviously have fixed mindsets. However, those with growth mindsets would strongly disagree with these sentiments. And those who are growing their growth mindsets would be even less prone to Alzheimer’s.
These articles also indicated that individuals holding these views showed symptoms of stress. Stress can be reduced by practicing the Relaxation Response.
So beware of and debunk these negative views of aging.
You might want to read or reread the following healthy memory blogs:
The Myth of Alzheimer’s
The Myth of Cognitive Decline
I’m also reminded of a remark I overheard at work. A man, who was apparently about to retire said, “When I retire I am going to to nothing—absolutely nothing. If there are nothing but Lucy reruns on TV, then I’ll watch I Love Lucy.
Unfortunately, this man is a prime candidate for Alzheimer’s.
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