Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Painstaking characters less struck by Alzheimer's

Self-discipline has shown to be protective against dementia in catholic nuns and priests, but this finding, hopefully, may also be true for postcard collectors and hobby gardeners.

The difference is striking: Compared to those with the lowest score of conscientiousness, those with the highest score have a risk of Alzheimer's disease reduced by 89 percent. This is the main outcome of a study about personality and dementia in 997 elderly nuns and priests. At the beginning of the study, all have been without any sign of dementia. Their personality has been assessed, and they have been followed up to twelve years. During this time, 176 developed Alzheimer's disease.

The study authors have expected such a result because a careful, painstaking character has been linked to a better health in old age in a number of previous studies.

The result is clear but its reason is not. A careful character is in most cases linked to a healthier lifestyle which may reduce the risks of Alzheimer's and other diseases. Conscientiousness may also activate the brain as an instance of self-control to a higher degree which may be protective against a decline of brain functions.

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