Dementia less common among socially active

By Ann Griswold • Published: April 28th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There are a lot of things to worry about as you grow older, but losing your marbles doesn’t have to be one of them. Swedish researchers say older people who are socially active or not easily stressed are half as likely to experience age-related dementia than others.

Nearly one in seven Americans develop dementia after their seventieth birthdays. Many people worry they will develop dementia because one or both of their parents suffered from it. But experts say the condition is influenced by more than just your genes. Previous studies have found that chronic distress takes a toll on certain regions of the brain, like the memory-forming hippocampus, eventually culminating in dementia.

A new study by Swedish researchers provides even more incentive to live a low-key lifestyle filled with laughter and friends. The scientists evaluated the personalities and lifestyles of more than five-hundred people in their eighties who were in good mental health. Over a six-year period, more than a third of the participants developed dementia. Seniors who were laidback but not very socially active had a fifty percent lower risk of developing dementia. And the opposite was also true: Seniors who were socialites but not necessarily laidback were half as likely as others to develop dementia.

The findings give credence to the power of friends, fun and a positive attitude, no matter what your age. You never know: A smile a day might just keep insanity at bay!