Most of us gracefully handle the creaky knees and occasional misplaced keys that come with aging, but the thought of memory loss and dementia can be frightening for many of us, making us worry for the future if we forget too many things, too often. Fortunately, we might be able to influence the health of our minds as the years roll by. Research hints at a connection between having a sense of purpose in life and dodging dementia in old age.
To study the connection between purpose in life—defined as having goals and objectives that give life meaning and direction, and brain health during aging—researchers collected information on psychological well-being from 951 dementia-free older people.
After seven years of annual tests, researchers found that compared with people who expressed no sense of purpose in life, participants who had a sense of purpose were:
Purpose in life remained the most important predictor of healthy brain aging even after taking into account other things that affect brain health, such as gender, education level, depression, chronic medical conditions, and social network. In addition, purpose in life protected against dementia more than other measures of psychological well-being, including self-acceptance, personal growth, positive relationships with others, ability to manage everyday demands, and having personal convictions.
Having goals and objectives that give your life meaning may be one of the best paths to a vibrant mind as you age. If you feel that you lack a sense of purpose, don’t despair. Health experts suggest that with a little effort, anyone can develop a sense of purpose. The following tips will help you get there.
(Arch Gen Psychiatry 2010;67:304–10)
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