A person’s emotional health, reflected in levels of anxiety, depression, lack of purposeful activities, positive attitude and social interaction, as well as sleep, are associated with increased future risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Those reporting anxiety have a 35% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in a meta-analysis of six studies. Social isolation and depression are risk factors for dementia in later life. Depression is also more prevalent in those with dementia. People with positive age beliefs, which also reduces stress, are less likely to develop dementia. Conversely, negative thinking is associated with accelerated cognitive decline.
A meta-analysis of studies on sleep found that disturbed sleep increases future risk of dementia. Combining 23 studies insomnia was significantly associated with 27% higher risk of cognitive disorders. Those getting too little (six hours or less) or too much (over 8 hours) had greater risk. A recent study of people in their 50s and 60s getting six hours of sleep or less were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later compared to those getting seven hours.
Potentially beneficial interventions include meditation and mindfulness, which has been shown to lessen depression in those with dementia ; heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback which has been shown to lessen depression, anxiety, and improve attentional skills as well as sleep quality and stress management in older adults. ; yoga having beneficial effects on cognitive functioning, particularly on attention and verbal memory possibly through improved sleep, mood, and neural connectivity. ; and improved social interactions with facilitated meeting and discussion groups being associated with improved cognition and increased brain volume.
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