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Having a 'Purpose in Life' May Help Shield You From Dementia
Date:5/7/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- If you're looking for a way to keep dementia at bay, a new study suggests you can do so by developing a firm purpose in life.

The findings don't prove that having a purpose will make a difference, and it's possible that the researchers missed another important factor that's at play. Still, the study found that people who had more purpose -- as defined by the researchers -- seemed to be less affected by the brain-clogging gunk that's considered to be a cause of Alzheimer's disease.

"Somehow, having a purpose allows people to cope with the physical signs of Alzheimer's disease," said Patricia Boyle, an associate professor at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Boyle and colleagues looked at tests given to 246 older people who later died and underwent autopsies that explored the state of their brains.

The researchers defined a purpose in life as "the tendency to find meaning from life experience, to be intentional and focused," Boyle said. "It's an indicator of well-being, that life is good and you are contributing to your life, you're making decisions."

To determine purpose in life, the researchers analyzed answers from a 10-item psychological test.

Among those who had a lot of brain gunk -- known as plaques and tangles -- the ones who had greater purpose in life appeared to be less affected by a decline in their mental (or "cognitive") powers. "The rate of cognitive decline was about 30 percent slower for someone with greater purpose in life, compared to someone with less purpose," Boyle said.

The researchers found that they were able to link a higher sense of purpose to better brain health even when they adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of people with illness, signs of depression and other factors.

It's still not clear
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