Having a strong sense of purpose in life may lower the likelihood of brain tissue damage in older adults, new research suggests.
Autopsies conducted among adults in their 80s revealed that those who felt their lives had meaning had far fewer “macroscopic infarcts” — small areas of dead tissue resulting from blockage of blood flow.
This kind of brain tissue damage is believed to boost the risk for developing dementia, movement problems, disability and/or death — many classic characteristics of old age.
“We know that negative emotional states like feeling bad, alone or sad are associated with a lot of negative health outcomes, whether or not you actually are alone or why you may be feeling badly,” said study co-author Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.
Such outcomes can include early death, an increased likelihood for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, or a higher risk for disability, she noted.
“What’s exciting about our new work is that we focused on the positive impact of having a purpose in life,” Boyle added. “Meaning, having a feeling of well-being and a sense that your life is good, and that you’re doing something important with your time.”
What the team is finding, she said, is that having a positive mental state is somehow protective in old age.
While the study found a connection between feeling a sense of purpose and brain tissue damage, it did not prove cause-and-effect.
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SOURCE: WebMD News from HealthDay