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Purpose-filled life staves off Alzheimer's

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Having a purpose not provides fulfillment in life, but also staves off the harmful effects of plaques and tangles which come with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study showed that people who reported greater purpose in life exhibited better cognition than those with less purpose in life even as plaques and tangles accumulated in their brains,” said Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, Rush University Medical Center. “These findings suggest that purpose in life protects against the harmful effects of plaques and tangles on memory and other thinking abilities. This is encouraging and suggests that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities promotes cognitive health in old age.”

Brains of participants dissected

The team studied 246 participants from the Rush Memory and Aging Project who did not have dementia and who subsequently died, leaving their bodies for medical research. They were evaluated for approximately 10 years including detailed testing for cognitive abilities as well as neurological performance. Part of the questioning had to to with purpose in life. They discovered that in the brains of persons who felt purpose in life, cognitive decline was slower and fewer plaques and tangles were present.

While plaques and tangles may be a normal part of aging, they are particularly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Plaques and tangles may be only part of the story

These studies are challenging because many factors influence cognition and research studies often lack the brain specimen data needed to quantify Alzheimer’s changes in the brain,” Boyle explained. “Identifying factors that promote cognitive health even as plaques and tangles accumulate will help combat the already large and rapidly increasing pubic health challenge posed by Alzheimer’s disease.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Rush University Medical Center

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