Study: Positive outlook, sociability decrease dementia risk

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A life filled with a carefree attitude and social activity could help reduce the risk of developing dementia in old age, new research suggests.

The recent study finds that seniors who are less prone to worrying are up to 50% less likely to develop dementia than their more fretful peers. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, also found a similar rate of dementia protection for more socially mobile individuals. According to study authors, previous research has found that chronic stress can affect parts of the brain, possibly resulting in dementia.

"Our findings suggest that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia even further," study author Hui-Xin Wang, Ph.D., said.

More than 500 seniors were given a personality questionnaire and followed for six years. During that time, 144 mostly worried individuals developed dementia. Research authors point to the importance of their findings, saying that lifestyle factors such as attitude and sociability can be changed, while genetics and hereditary pre-disposition cannot. The full study appears in the January 20 issue of the journal Neurology.