The Yale School of Public Health recently made a huge mind over matter discovery when it comes to Alzheimers. They found that when you have negative beliefs about aging it can physically change your brain in a way that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
The study also suggests that we can counteract this problem by changing our negative beliefs about aging.
Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
-Betty Friedan, “Parade”, March 20, 1994
If we can see our elderly like other cultures do we may be able to keep away or at least reduce the amount of dementia caused today. 5 million Americans suffer from dementia-related diseases.
“Ten years ago I visited the monastery of Tharri on the island of Rhodes with my children. There, as in all of Greece, abbots are addressed by everyone as ‘Geronda,’ which means ‘old man.’ Abbesses are called ‘Gerondissa.’ Not exactly terms of endearment in my adopted home. The idea of honoring old age, indeed identifying it with wisdom and closeness to God, is in startling contrast to the way we treat aging in America.” -Arianna Huffington
The study, which was led by associate professor of Public Health Becca Levy found that the first link to the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease is the connection it has with culture-based psychosocial risk factors.
“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes,” said Levy. “Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”
Those who conducted the study looked at MRI’s in dementia-free people during an aging study. The found that people who had negative beliefs about getting old has a greater decline in the size and volume of their hippocampus which is an important part of the brain’s memory center. When this area is reduced it is a key sign that the patient has Alzheimer’s disease.
The scientists also looked at the amyloid plaques in brain autopsies since that is also a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. These twisted up strands of proteins build up in the brain cells and slow their ability to function. Those people who had the most negative beliefs about aging had a larger number of amyloid plaque than those who did not.
If we can start shifting our perception about life, aging and death now we may be able to heal our brain’s before this disease has a chance to set in.
Perhaps in order to deal with our negative thoughts about aging we need to face our fear about death and dying.
“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
― Gabriel García Márquez,
In addition, to living your life to the fullest and changing your perception about aging there are also things you can do to take care of your body and mind to help reduce rapid aging issues.
Exercising our body and staying flexible with yoga can help to prevent the loss of bone density and muscle loss. Start small with only 10 minutes of yoga a day or go for a 30-minute walk out in nature.
2. Eating Healthy-
If we are not careful our bodies absorb less nutrients as we get older. Subtle lifestyle changes now can make a huge difference down the road. Make sure you are eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Focus on getting enough vitamin D either with food or by spending time in the sun each day. Vitamin D helps improve your memory and eyesight.
Stay connected to your community, friends, and family. Join an organization, club, art studio, or get a pet. In many traditions, the elderly people are sought after for their wisdom. Start while you are young to spend time with the elderly and learn from them while encouraging your children to do the same thing.
“Advice is always sought from them on a range of issues, from investment of family money to nitty-gritties of traditional wedding rituals and intra-family conflicts. And this is not just passive advice; their word is final in settling disputes,” Achyut Bihani wrote in Slate. “The elderly are often the most religious and charitable members of the family.”
4. Exercise your mind-
Keep your mind active by continuing to learn. Turn your tv off and play little games like sudoku, word searches, crossword puzzles, pick up a new hobby, learn how to paint, dance or learn a new language. “Use it or lose it”.
In the end focus on living right now and making the most of your life. Enjoy and embrace each new moment.
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”― Lao Tzu,
What do you do to stay young at heart and honor your years as they pass by? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Credit: lessonsfromhappyhour.com