Alzheimer’s disease is by far one of the cruelest and slowest ways to die. People around you watch you slowly shrivel away, while you progressively forget everything you’ve ever known. It is untreatable, unpreventable, and impossible to slow down. Scientists may have found a connection between gerontophobia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are responsible for the deaths of 1 in 3 senior citizens
- Every 67 seconds, a person in the United States develops Alzheimer’s
- It is estimated that in 2050, $1.1 trillion in 2015 money will be dedicated to Alzheimer’s care in the United States alone
- 45% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are not aware of their diagnosis
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
A team of researcher led by Dr. Susan Resnick from the National Institute of Health (NIH) collected the data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. In the study, the healthy participants received annual brain scans starting at the average age of 69, and continued to get them for the next 20 years.
The team decided to take two approaches: They would use the data from the aforementioned study, and they would perform a different study on some of the subjects which died after the study was over.
The initial study asked the participants questions related to how they felt about aging. The study focused on 52 MRIs taken of the subjects’ brains up to 10 years after the beginning of the study.
The second study analyzed the brains of 74 of the original participants that died over 20 years after the initial MRI.
The results were quite interesting.
Both studies showed that there were differences between the brains of the people with positive and negative views on aging. Those patients that had negative thoughts, or were scared of growing old showed brain patterns more similar to those of Alzheimer’s patients than those which looked forward to becoming old.
The first study showed a much more pronounced shrinkage of the hippocampus, while the second one showed that the brains belonging to those subjects with negative views on aging had more amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. All three symptoms are very common in Alzheimer’s patients.
Since the study was observational, no causality effect could be properly pinpointed regarding the disease and being afraid of getting old. The authors believe that stress and fear are the reasons behind the inception of the disease; however that cannot be confirmed by the current results.
The fact that people with negative mindsets also tend to lead less healthy lives could also be a determining factor in contracting the disease.
Below, you can find a list of facts about the disease, put together by the Alzheimer’s Association, which is trying every year to raise money in order to help fight the terrible disease.
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