Sense of Purpose Reduces the Risk of Alzheimer’s

Seniors who say they have a greater sense of purpose and direction in their lives seem to also have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study from researchers at the Rush University Medical Center.
The researchers used a questionnaire to measure the seniors’ sense of purpose and then followed up with them a number of years later. They found that those who scored in the top 10 percent on the measurement were about 2.4 times more likely to stay Alzheimer’s-free than were those who scored in the bottom ten percent. In other words, seniors who agreed most with statements like “I feel good when I think of what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in the future” were much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than were those who disagreed with the statements. They also showed a slower rate of cognitive decline.
While the mechanism behind the link isn’t yet known, the researchers suggest it may have something to do with the fact that purpose in life has also been linked to positive effects on the immune system and blood vessels. And a sense of purpose, they point out, is something that can be instilled:

In particular, these findings may provide a new treatment target for interventions aimed at enhancing health and well-being in older adults. Purpose in life is a potentially modifiable factor that may be increased via specific behavioral strategies that help older persons identify personally meaningful activities and engage in goal-directed behaviors. Even small behavioral modifications ultimately may translate into an increased sense of intentionality, usefulness, and relevance.

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