A new study found that repetitive negative thinking in later life was linked to cognitive decline and the greater deposits of two harmful proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
“We suggest that repeated negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia,” said lead author Dr. Natalie Marchant, psychiatrist and senior researcher at the Department of Mental Health at University College London.
Negative thinking behaviors, such as doubting the past and worrying about the future, have been measured in more than 350 people over the age of 55 for a period of two years. About a third of participants also underwent PET (positron emission tomography). Brain scan to measure amyloid and beta deposits, two proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.
The scans showed that people who spent more time thinking negatively had more accumulation of amyloid beta and beta, worse memory and greater cognitive decline over a four-year period compared to people who were not pessimistic.
The study also looked at the levels of stress and depression and found a greater cognitive decline in depressed and anxious people, which is reflected in previous research.
However, their and amyloid deposits did not increase in already depressed and anxious people, leading researchers to suspect that repetitive negative thinking may be the main reason why depression and anxiety contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Combined with other studies linking depression and anxiety to the risk of dementia, we expect that chronic negative thoughts for a long time could increase the risk of dementia,” Marchant said.
“This is the first study to show a biological link between recurrent negative thinking and Alzheimer’s pathology and gives doctors a more accurate way to assess risk and offer more personal interventions,” said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of Alzheimer’s Clinical Prevention. at the NYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center, who did not participate in the study.
“Many at-risk people are unaware of the specific negative effects of anxiety and doubt directly on the brain,” said Isaacson, who also manages the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, which funds research to better understand and alleviate the relationship. with the age of cognitive decline.
“This study is important and will change the way my patients are cared for at risk.”
More study is needed
It is “important to note that this does not mean that short-term negative thinking will cause Alzheimer’s disease,” said Fiona Carragher, a policy chief and researcher at the Alzheimer’s Society in London. “We need further research to better understand this.”
“Most people in the study have already been recognized to be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease, so we need to see if these results resonate with the general population,” he said, “and if recurring negative thinking increases the risk. . “
Researchers suggest that mental training practices such as meditation can help promote positive thinking while reducing negative thinking and planning future studies for testing. their case.
“Our thoughts can have a biological impact on our physical health, which can be positive or negative,” said author Dr. Gael Chételat of Inserm / Université de Caen-Normandie.
“Taking care of your mental health is important and should be a top priority for public health, as it is not only important for people’s health and well-being in the short term, but it can also affect the potential risk of dementia,” he said. Chételat. .
Looking at the bright side
“Optimists also tend to have better coping skills and are better at solving problems,” Rozanski told CNN in a previous interview. “They are better at what we call precautionary measures, or anticipating problems, and then we take precautionary measures to address them.”
Train yourself to be optimistic
You can tell where you are in the glass half full or empty by answering a series of statements
small called “life orientation test”.
The test includes statements such as, “I’m faithful to the idea that ‘every cloud has a silver lining,'” and “If something can go wrong for me, it will.” Evaluating scale statements perfectly agrees with many disagreements, and the results can be added to determine your level of optimism or pessimism.
Another technique is to practice gratitude. Just a few minutes each day to write down what makes you grateful can improve your outlook on life. And while you’re at it, list the positive experiences you had that day, which can also increase your optimism.
“Finally, we know that cognitive-behavioral therapies are very effective in treating depression. Pessimism is on the way to depression,” Rozanski said.
“You can apply the same principles as for depression, such as reshaping. You teach that there is an alternative way of thinking or shaping negative thoughts and you can make great progress in a pessimistic way.”