Genetics play an incredibly important role in our health. But research continues to mount that point to a mind-body relationship that provides each of us the opportunity to modify certain risk factors that do influence cognitive aging.
In a meta-analysis of eight separate research trials, data was reviewed for the purpose of identifying these modifiable risk factors seen with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Of 44,531 patients in five different countries reviewed, 1,703 were diagnosed with clinical dementia using standardized tools.
Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease characteristic of neuropathologies, or literal changes within the brain’s normal architecture and function. The presentation of dementia most often includes memory loss, but also cognitive decline manifested in motor skills, such as shuffling feet, loss of balance, and the inability for self-care.
While a physician’s care is needed to address the physical aspects of our brain health, a robust body of research is showing that healthier cognitive aging is associated with physical, social, and cognitive engagement. Recognizing that fact, the “Big Five” personality traits and subjective well-being (SWB) were assessed in conjunction with these 1,703 patients with clinically diagnosed dementia.
The findings were that certain “Big Five” personality traits–extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience–combined with SWB, which is defined as one’s life satisfaction, positive affect, or their negative affect (a person’s moods and emotions expressed) correlated to the diagnosis of dementia.
Published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the conclusion used strong language reflecting certain personality traits and responses which “differentially predict dementia diagnoses.” The conclusion viewed the research as “providing strong evidence that neuroticism, conscientiousness, and negative affect are associated with dementia diagnoses across samples, measures, and time.” Meaning that these personality traits and well-being indicators are associated with one’s cognitive health, and maybe even a predictor of future diagnoses.
The new research published November 29, 2023, even reported “a protective effect of openness to experience, positive affect, and satisfaction with life for incident dementia diagnosis.”
Read these definitions to honestly assess your own personality and tendency toward well-being. Neuroticism is defined as self-doubt, a tendency toward anxiety and depression, creating social limitations.
Negative affect, is best described as the emotions experienced and manifested when one fails to achieve a goal or avoid a threat. The associated emotions are anger, guilt, distress, and nervousness.
Conscientiousness is defined as one who is organized and is a planner with great detail. Those open to experience are comfortable with the unfamiliar, very curious, with a hunger for knowledge. Life satisfaction is the degree to which one lives a meaningful life. Finally, positive affect is an outlook of satisfaction and contentment. Bottom line, growing research associates one’s cognitive health with their level of positivity and demeanor, with one’s level of socialization and experiences, as well as one’s grit and determination. If you find anxiety, depression, or a sense of failure dominates your life, seek help through your church and your healthcare provider. Your mind-body connection is real.