Monitor on Psychology - October 2011 - (Page 49)
Cardiovascular disease, chronic stress and high cholesterol are other significant risk factors for cognitive decline that have emerged from her twin study. Her data also indicate that depression may be an early symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The news isn’t all grim, Gatz pointed out. Her data have also revealed several protective factors that appear to safeguard the brain against Alzheimer’s, one of which is higher education. In the twin study, she found that the twin with the higher level of education is three times more likely not to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, even when controlling for genetic influences and other life experiences, said Gatz. Other protective factors include participating in leisure activities, such as reading and cultural activities, said Gatz, but mainly for women. Light or regular exercise such as walking or playing sports is a strong protective factor for both men and women, added Gatz. Heavy exercise, such hard physical labor or training, was not found to be significantly protective. People’s work and career choices may also buffer against cognitive decline. Gatz’s research Light or regular exercise, such as walking or participating in sports, is a strong protective factor shows that having a job against Alzheimer’s disease for both men and women, said researcher Dr. Margaret Gatz. that involves complex work with people — careers diagnosis, the decline is faster,” she said. that involve persuasion, While such protective factors offer no guarantee against mentoring, instruction and supervision — relate to a lower risk developing the disease, they offer hope and a guide for of Alzheimer’s. That said, people with those jobs also have a precluding cognitive decline for all ages, Gatz said. steeper rate of decline once Alzheimer’s is diagnosed. “Protection for good brain health is something that needs to “This is consistent with the idea that education and [job] be thought about as a lifetime commitment,” she said. n complexity push off the onset of Alzheimer’s, but once there is a
OCTOBER 2011 • MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY 49
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